‘Extreme Makeover’ for teachers

“In deference to a world enthralled by shows like ‘Extreme Makeover’ and ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians,’ the public school district in Washington has hired a reality television company to produce videos intended to improve the skills of its teachers,” reports the New York Times.

The 80 videos, 5 to 15 minutes in length, are peppered with quick jump cuts, slick screen labels and a jaunty soundtrack. In short interviews and classroom snippets, the district’s highest-performing teachers demonstrate how they teach a range of lessons, from adding decimal numbers to guiding students of differing ability levels through a close reading of the Marshall Plan.

. . . “Teachers were saying to us, ‘Just be very clear about what good teaching looks like,’ ” said Kaya Henderson, Washington’s schools chancellor.

Charter school networks, school districts, universities, companies and nonprofits are developing online video libraries showing model teaching, reports the Times. Some are focused on lessons aligned with Common Core standards.

Teaching Channel, a nonprofit, has a collection of more than 500 professionally produced videos of teachers recommended by school districts and other teacher organizations. The University of Michigan is indexing about 16,000 videos of fourth- through ninth-grade English and math teachers in six urban districts shot by researchers financed by the Gates Foundation.

Betterlesson.com, a popular sharing site for lesson plans, is working to develop a video component. And hundreds of amateur clips have been uploaded to YouTube by individual teachers.

D.C. evaluators and principals will recommend specific videos to teachers and set up discussions.

Columbia economist Jonah E. Rockoff predicts watching teaching videos will help mid-range teachers improve but won’t do much for low performers. Teachers, what do you think? Will the videos prove to be useful to most, some or few teachers?