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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

‘No big payoffs’ to teacher evaluation push

Image result for simpsons teacher Mrs. Krabappel

Teacher-effectiveness programs funded by the Gates Foundation didn’t improve students’ achievement, reports Madeline Will in Ed Week. A RAND analysis, also funded by Gates, found “no big payoffs in terms of improved graduation [rates] or achievement of students in general, and low-income and minority students in particular,” said Brian Stecher, the lead author.

. . . the Gates Foundation gave grants to three large school districts—Memphis, Tenn. (which merged with Shelby County during the course of the initiative); Pittsburgh; and Hillsborough County, Fla.—and to one charter school consortium in California starting in the 2009-10 school year. The foundation poured $212 million into these partnerships over about six years, and the districts put up matching funds. The total cost of the initiative was $575 million. The school sites agreed to design new teacher-evaluation systems that incorporated classroom-observation rubrics and a measure of growth in student achievement. They also agreed to offer individualized professional development based on teachers’ evaluation results, and to revamp recruitment, hiring, and placement. Schools also implemented new career pathways for effective teachers and awarded teachers with bonuses for good performance.

“New teacher effectiveness ratings were difficult to put into practice, writes Kevin Mahnken on The 74. “After the 2012-13 school year, no more than 2 percent of teachers in any of the seven school systems were rated in the lowest level of teacher effectiveness.”

The rating inflation arose partially from the fact that teachers grew resistant to the new evaluations being used for high-stakes decisions like compensation and firing. Indeed, the Pittsburgh Teachers Union kicked up so much of a fuss over the new criteria that the district nearly lost its $40 million grant. Superintendent Linda Lane had to lower the minimum score for effectiveness — twice — before the issue was resolved.

In a Twitter thread, Matthew A. Kraft, an associate professor of education and economics at Brown, accentuates the positive:

The use of rigorous classroom observation rubrics that provide a common language for talking about high-quality instruction was widely viewed as a positive outcome. 20 years from now I’d bet this is one of the most enduring legacies of teacher eval reforms.

He also sees a “lost opportunity” to “redesign teacher compensation with much higher top-end base salaries,” instead of small bonuses. “Teachers repeatedly said a few $1,000 did not motivate them to change their practice,” Kraft writes.

The Gates effective teaching reform effort failed pretty badly,” writes Jay Greene.   “It cost a fortune.  It produced significant political turmoil and distracted from other, more promising efforts.  And it appears to have generally done more harm than good with respect to student achievement and attainment outcomes.”

Gates haters are cheering — or, at least, sneering at the ineffectiveness of the effectiveness initiative. I’d hate to give up on trying to evaluate and reward teacher effectiveness. Does anyone think 98 percent of teachers are effective?

The final evaluation report on the $1.4 billion in federal innovation grants is out, reports Ed Week.

Only nine of 67 i3 (Investing in Innovation) grants with completed evaluations showed both “tight implementation and strong positive effects.” That’s 13 percent.

Successful programs included KIPP charter schools, Reading Recovery, the Children’s Literacy Initiative, College-Ready Writers Program and Building Assets, Reducing Risks.

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