Friday, February 24, 2012

Gates Signals Moderation on Value-Added Measures

The Prichard Committee, a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grantee, recently sent messages to Kentucky educators alerting them to Bill Gates's recent New York Times Op Ed  titled "Shame Is Not the Solution." Gates who supports value-added measures (and has supported them with millions of dollars in grant funds) had remained silent on the publication of teacher evaluation results by newspapers. In fact, Gates had created a stir when he called student testing the model for teacher evaluation, noting: "It is amazing how little feedback teachers get to help them improve, especially when you think about how much feedback their students get." Now, having created the system, Gates realizes the damage done by publicly reporting the results.

I imagine Gates feels similarly to the way Albert Shanker must have felt once he realized how his innovation-minded charter schools were co-opted for purposes he had not imagined.
But it's doubtful Gates can get the genie back into the bottle any more than Shanker could. As the New York State Court of Appeals has confirmed, creating this kind of information down to the teacher level, makes it public information. And that can be published in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Herald-Leader and the Courier-Journal. It is clearly news.

But he's trying...and evolving. The Gates Foundation annual letter on philanthropic activities for 2012 marks a significant shift in his thinking. The 2012 letter argues strongly in favor of teacher peer review, a more holistic, classroom-observation-based evaluation strategy that is popular with teachers and their unions. Ladywonk Dana Goldstein believes Gates has learned a lot from dialogue with classroom teachers. 

Just as he nimbly moved in business matters, he appears to be shifting positions again. But in the public sector, where he cannot control the variables, his efforts are likely to take on a life of their own, and in this case, residual effects may hurt what he had hoped to help.

Bill Gates Really Has Evolved on Teacher Quality

This from Dana Goldstein:
I heard some push back last month when I praised Bill Gates for adopting a more holistic view of teacher evaluation, one focused less on student test scores and more on peer review and continuous improvement. But today he's signaling his evolution on these ideas in the loudest way possible, by publishing an op-ed in the New York Times that argues against releasing teachers' value-added scores to the public--a policy the Bloomberg administration and Arne Duncan support--and in favor of using value-added as just one measure of teacher effectiveness...
Of course, the Gates Foundation is not abandoning value-added entirely; it continues to commit its own resources to developing value-added as an evaluation tool, in part by creating new, more stable student assessments, and in part by researching what combination of evaluation tools--both qualitative and quantitative--are least volatile and most predictive. But given Gates' history of statements on teaching, it's no longer credible to argue he hasn't evolved significantly in a direction most classroom teachers support: toward multiple measures of teacher quality....

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