Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Teacher Effectiveness Kickline

From Eli Broad and Michael Bloomberg to George Miller and Checker Finn, we’re awash in chatter about measuring and rewarding teacher effectiveness. This week I’ll consider some of the problems with these proposals. What’s missing from this discussion, I argue, is a full exploration of their potential consequences for students, teachers, and schools.

Let me note that I am not opposed to measuring and rewarding teacher effectiveness in principle. But it’s more complicated than most commentators would like to acknowledge, and I hope this week’s postings will help us think about that complexity.

Monday: Tunnel vision syndrome - The teacher effectiveness debate focuses only on a narrow set of the goals of public education, which may endanger other important goals we have for our schools.

Tuesday: No teacher is an island - The teacher effectiveness debate ignores that teachers play many roles in a school. Experienced teachers often serve as anchoring forces in addition to teaching students in their own classrooms. If we don’t acknowledge this interdependence, we may destabilize schools altogether.

Wednesday: Ignoring the great sorting machine - If students were randomly assigned to classrooms and schools, measuring teacher effects would be a much more straightforward enterprise. But when Mrs. Jones is assigned the lowest achievers, and Mrs. Scott’s kids are in the gifted and talented program, matters are complicated immeasurably.

Thursday: Overlooking the oops factor - Everything in the world is measured with error, and the best research on teacher effectiveness takes this very seriously. Yet many of those hailing teacher effectiveness proposals missed out on Statistics 101.

Friday: Disregarding labor market effects - The nature of evaluation affects not only current teachers, but who chooses to join the profession in the future and where they are willing to teach. If we don’t acknowledge that kids that are further behind are harder to pull up, we risk creating yet another incentive for teachers to avoid the toughest schools.

(Kickline roster (from left to right): Eli Broad (Broad Foundation), Kati Haycock (Ed Trust), Michael Bloomberg (NYC), Michael Petrilli and Checker Finn (Fordham).)

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