Bill Gates: We’re fumbling evaluations when we rate teachers on how students skip

downeyart0401In a Washington Post op-ed, Bill Gates says there should be a fairer way to evaluate teachers. While he is all for accountability, Gates cautions against using student test scores as the primary basis for making decisions about firing, promoting and compensating teachers.

Here is an excerpt: (Please read full piece before commenting.)

Efforts are being made to define effective teaching and give teachers the support they need to be as effective as possible. But as states and districts rush to implement new teacher development and evaluation systems, there is a risk they’ll use hastily contrived, unproven measures. One glaring example is the rush to develop new assessments in grades and subjects not currently covered by state tests. Some states and districts are talking about developing tests for all subjects, including choir and gym, just so they have something to measure.

In one Midwestern state, for example, a 166-page Physical Education Evaluation Instrument holds teachers accountable for ensuring that students meet state-defined targets for physical education, such as consistently demonstrating “correct skipping technique with a smooth and effortless rhythm” and “strike consistently a ball with a paddle to a target area with accuracy and good technique.” I’m not making this up!

This is one reason there is a backlash against standardized tests — in particular, using student test scores as the primary basis for making decisions about firing, promoting and compensating teachers. I’m all for accountability, but I understand teachers’ concerns and frustrations.

Even in subjects where the assessments have been validated, such as literacy and math, test scores don’t show a teacher areas in which they need to improve.

If we aren’t careful to build a system that provides feedback and that teachers trust, this opportunity to dramatically improve the U.S. education system will be wasted.

The fact is, teachers want to be accountable to their students. What the country needs are thoughtfully developed teacher evaluation systems that include multiple measures of performance, such as student surveys, classroom observations by experienced colleagues and student test results.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

42 comments Add your comment

Wilbur

April 4th, 2013
9:13 am

Companies must evaluate employees all the time. Systems are imperfect. Some managers are evil. Some employees are lazy. But…the system of having a manager evaluate an employees performance subject to more senior review of the decisions is the best solution available to us. Employees who freel unfairly treated might leave or be demotivated.
I have been both fairly and unfairly evaluated although over time, my bosses mostly got it right. In my own experience, I would argue that most evaluation systems I worked in have worked pretty well over time.
Taxpayers and Parents are pretty exasperated with the endless avoidance of evaluation by teacher. We don’t buy the over complex and unwieldy evaluation systems. AND we know that evaluations by a single test are neither fair nor helpful.
None of us wants to be evaluated on one arbritrary measure. But we will all have to face some evaluation of our work performance.
Failure to come to a reasonable answer on questions like this are eating away at the public’s confidence in the system.

Pride and Joy

April 4th, 2013
9:21 am

Yes, I agree three things to evaluate teachers “multiple measures of performance, such as”
student surveys
classroom observations by experienced colleagues
student test results.”
And I would add to that — parental feedback.
Makes common sense.

Rob

April 4th, 2013
9:42 am

Anyone that has worked in both the business world and in education knows that evaluation systems on student performance are not the same as work evaluations. They have those in schools now. For example, I cannot fire a student. I cannot for them to fix study habits at home. I do not spend a day with a student, I spend 50 minutes with them. It is an “assembly line” of knowledge, not product. Knowledge is organic that seeps in differently case be case. The evaluations on test scores evaluate matters largely out of the teachers’ hands.

Ernest

April 4th, 2013
9:44 am

This is why I hear more teachers express a desire to be measured on ’student growth’ as part of the overall accountability and evaluation rubric. IMO, this can demonstrate whether the teacher had an impact on the student.

I was one of those that listened to Dr. Elgart last night in DeKalb. I thought is was interesting that he mentioned DeKalb lacked a technology to allow a teacher to easily see where each of their students stood academically based on the standards for that grade (I think this is a longitudinal data system). I believe this type of visibility will ultimately help students, parents, teachers and the community.

Georgia

April 4th, 2013
9:45 am

Let the students design the tests. A mind has to consider many different angles when it seeks to create puzzles for other minds. It’s the surest way to learn in depth. A mind hungers for applications when it knows that other minds can be motivated by creative problem solving techniques. Every student wants to grade papers. It’s fun. Playing teacher is the most fun a student can have.

Dr. John Trotter

April 4th, 2013
9:51 am

I am sorry, but I am not buying Bill Gates’s sudden concern for teachers. Perhaps a bit of a blow-back from teachers being disgusted with his kibitzing in public education has him concerned. He needs to stick to software. I like Microsoft Word.

Dr. John Trotter

April 4th, 2013
9:54 am

Oh, yes, “student surveys” ought to really tell you who the best teachers are. Ha!

Coastal Georgia Teacher

April 4th, 2013
10:00 am

Interesting how he is writing about this. His company is expected to make millions off of the relationship between PARCC and SMARTER. He is doing this to take all the negative press he has been getting. He is an opportunist. What the heck does he know about curriculum and education. Having billions does not make one an expert on curriculum implementation and design. His money is behind the Longitudinal Data System via the USDOE. I really do not like the way this data mining is going….teachers will no longer be teachers, we will just be miners of data and funnel the students through like cattle. Depressing.

Pride and Joy

April 4th, 2013
10:20 am

Dr. J, I wrote a heartfelt letter of appreciation to my English teacher. It was published in the newspaper. Yes, I would have written her a glowing appraisal. After more than twenty years, I still send her flowers on her birthday, December 12th.

DunMoody

April 4th, 2013
10:26 am

I’m not so dismissive of student surveys. There’s valuable information in those – winnowed from the inevitable defensive push-back at a teacher who “asked too much.” (Happens in corporate training, too, by the way – even adults don’t like a bad grade earned because they coasted and will critique the instructor accordingly.) By and large, students know who the good teachers are and value the quality of the instruction. Taken in isolation from all other measurements, student surveys are by no means the most quantifiable measurement. But don’t discount them. Through the years, the comments I hear by students have been spot-on. The great teachers have their respect, the benchwarmers their scorn.

Bill Gates is alluding to a fact of life: there are no perfect instruments for assessing great teachers. And rushing to put together artificial measurements is going to lead to the inevitable “unforeseen consequences.”

bigbill

April 4th, 2013
10:29 am

A fascinating web site set up by Australian University professor Sharon Beder called “Business Managed Democracy” which is defined as democracies which exist to benefit business interests includes a section called “Business Managed Education.” She describes what business coalitions around the world (especially including Bill and Melinda Gates and their foundation) are doing to capture and control public school systems to impose their free market business ideologies and to produce the kinds of workers they need. Profiting from the trillions in taxpayers funds available for public schools is not overlooked. Here is a link to her website on education. Once there click on “Business coalitions” in the first sentence to see what she says about Bill Gates and his “Stand Up For Children” front non-profit which partners with the Walton Family Foundation in various school “reform” efforts and to elect friendly state legislature candidates.

http://www.herinst.org/BusinessManagedDemocracy/education/

Dr. John Trotter

April 4th, 2013
10:45 am

Bill Gates has done more than anyone else out there in getting this Common Core crap pushed down the throats of school systems in 45 states so far. (Nebraska, Alaska, Virginia, Texas, and Minnesota have still not bowed down to the educational gods of Nebuchadnezzar.) He’s pumped millions and millions of dollars in the National Governors’ Conference, effectively lassoing the governors into his Common Core Corral. Make no mistake…Bill Gates undoubtedly hopes to (and stands to) make billions of dollars when the states with this “common” curriculum finally need his apps and the apps will be tailored to fit in all the school systems with this “common” curriculum.

No, I am not buying Bill Gates’s sudden concern that these new damnable evaluation systems have become veritable monsters. He above any person is responsible for creating these monsters. He and his wife Melinda have not called for less testing but very significantly more testing of the students. They have called for more in-depth teacher evaluations…which have unleashed these ridiculous examples that he himself cites. Despite his sometimes protestations to the contrary, Arne Duncan essentially ties any Race to the Top monies to the states bowing at the altar of the Common Core god. Yes, just like Microsoft is Bill Gates’s baby, so is Common Core. Microsoft is his good child and quite “abel” to assist many people, including yours truly, but Common Core has been his “Cain” from the very beginning, intent on killing creativity and ingenuity among the teachers.

Dr. John Trotter

April 4th, 2013
10:55 am

@ bigbill: This looks like a good link. Thanks.

It’s all about the cheddar, isn’t it? All of this “reform” stuff never has really been about the children. It’s about business. R-E-F-O-R-M? Ruining Education For Our Resources & Money. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what school “reform” has always been about.

Mountain Man

April 4th, 2013
11:03 am

What we need is a STUDENT evaluation system. One that tracks DAYS ABSENT, days late, homework not turned in, discipline referrals, classroom decorum, as WELL AS scores on homework (real scores not minimum 50) and tests. Then compare their score on this system to their grade and their mastery of the subject and I think you will see some obvious correlation – much more correlation that the ability of the teacher with their test scores.

Private Citizen

April 4th, 2013
11:28 am

He is so completely lost, and he keeps supporting evaluation culture as a form of management.

living in an outdated ed system

April 4th, 2013
11:28 am

Have any of you reviewed the MET that Gates funded? I believe he is trying to do the right thing, and the research on measuring effective teaching is making progress. But see, here is where Georgia has gone wrong:

1. It has done PRECISELY what Gates warned not to do: it is rushing to implement evaluation systems which are a sizeable chunk of the RT3 grant.
2. We are not following Gates’ prescription when we base at least 50% of the evaluation on performance on state assessments. There are other ways to measure student achievement, and that percentage needs to be lower. But as long as multiple measures are utilized, there is room for buy-in from all stakeholders.
3. Schools such as APS have created a significant moral hazard by creating incentive structures for educators too closely aligned to one measure. Because APS decided to offer bonuses based on test scores, they planted the seeds for cheating and corruption.

I think it’s time that everyone takes a deep breath and steps back to look at what the research is telling us. So I don’t write a book here, take a look at “key findings” section from this article when Gates released the final report on the MET this past January:

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/media-center/press-releases/2013/01/measures-of-effective-teaching-project-releases-final-research-report

We are learning what is best, and what educators will support. But as Gates states in the article:

“If we aren’t careful to build a system that provides feedback and that teachers trust, this opportunity to dramatically improve the U.S. education system will be wasted. “

Private Citizen

April 4th, 2013
12:01 pm

Thankfully, Gates’ colonisation and exploit is limited to the United States. He is a skilled and experienced coloniser and monopolist. Many of his “Microsoft” products are the result of purchasing – going around with the checkbook and buying outright – the work of independent creative companies. (PS This is the same thing Pearson Education of London is doing – they now own the Georgia teacher certification testing, and are probably reaping billions from Georgia alone, they also provide a lot of the automated garbage being sold by for-profit office park “colleges” as course curriculum software. Hey, U. S. taxpayer, you’re on the hook to pay the student loans, easily $40-50k for two years for anyone who get entwined enrolling in one of these plentiful “office park” for profit “colleges”).

The Germans know how to apprise Gates.
1. When he went looking for donor partners, the German industrialists reduced him down to one question, Where’s the legitimacy?
2. Klaus Knopper, when he is not writing braille software for his functionally blind wife, invented a cd that you can put into a Windows computer, boot a different operating system from the cd, and then go into the broken Windows system like a surgeon and fix it.

Private Citizen

April 4th, 2013
12:11 pm

Bill will not be doing any guest speaking here on the study of Electrical and Computer Engineering: http://translate.google.com/translate?sl=de&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.eit.uni-kl.de%2F&act=url

bootney farnsworth

April 4th, 2013
12:11 pm

rate my professor is as accurate as Obama is from the free throw line

Private Citizen

April 4th, 2013
12:17 pm

As part of the research initiative of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, the TU wants to set up more coordinated programs that create the best possible working conditions for young scientists as well as special support individual projects individually. With the establishment of research priorities and research centers, it has ensured that skills are bundled and the implementation of innovative research projects to be facilitated.

Hmmm. I don’t see anything about evaluation culture and micromanaging people. Just the opposite. By the way, this is one of the places where they take apart Microsoft products and throw the crumbs in the cracker jar on the end of the counter. The stated mission is basically the exact opposite of the colonisation from afar being practiced by the manipulative control-freak Gates.

Private Citizen

April 4th, 2013
12:18 pm

‘Supposed to be italicised as a quote. I guess I am so stunned and distracted by the content of what it says.

As part of the research initiative of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, the TU wants to set up more coordinated programs that create the best possible working conditions for young scientists as well as special support individual projects individually. With the establishment of research priorities and research centers, it has ensured that skills are bundled and the implementation of innovative research projects to be facilitated.

Private Citizen

April 4th, 2013
12:26 pm

Re: “Common Core,” Initially I though this was a better-written and more sophisticated replacement for the home spun “Georgia Standards” that teachers have been made to follow. I still thing this is an important and good idea.

Apparently within the “Common Core” is imbedded this touchy / feely “values” culture as a substitute for content. If anyone (Serf’s Collar?) has any specific quotes showing how the curriculum aspect of “Common Core” has been marginalised or manipulated, it would be valuable to provide specific example.

ScienceTeacher671

April 4th, 2013
1:50 pm

In elementary school, I really WANTED to be the person chosen 1st or 2nd (or anything but LAST) in gym class, but I wasn’t very good at sports. If I’d been graded according to the PE rubric Gates describes in his article, my poor teacher would have looked like a failure.

Catlady

April 4th, 2013
3:07 pm

Let’s make a likert scale on credibility in educational matters. On the highly unlikely side, we would have Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, and Bev Hall. Phbbbttt!

Catlady

April 4th, 2013
3:26 pm

Btw, I want my doctor evaluated on,how good a job he does, in order to keep his medical license. First, does he accept every patient, no matter what is wrong with them?

Second, do all his patients follow his instructions ( can he prove he gave the instructions). Are they all healthier? Do they all live forever, no matter how sick they were when they came to him?

Third indicator: has he ever been sued? By anyone, even his drug-addled neighbors?

Fourth indicator: what do the insurance companies think of him? Do they have to pay out too many claims? Use a smiley face or thumbs up card to register,their evaluations.

Finally, does he follow the iron-clad “suggestions” of every witch doctor and shaman who thinks they know everything there is to know about medicine because,they had a scraped knee as a child?

ssteacher

April 4th, 2013
3:28 pm

Still not sure what makes Gates’s voice on teacher evaluation, school reform, or the process of education worth listening to, other than he’s wealthy. He’s a drop out who didn’t need school to do what he did. He has no experience in being successful as a student, teacher, administrator, or anything other than honorary “we want your money” degrees.

TeacherinDeKalb

April 4th, 2013
4:14 pm

@Mountain Man I totally agree! I have absolutely no problem being evaluated. But evaluate me on MY efforts and performance, don’t evaluate me on a factor I can’t control. I teach in South DeKalb. I have students who are absent often, suspended, put in jail, and some bring absolutely no materials to class and will tell you that they aren’t going to do s–t (their words, not mine). So when these particular students fail, it reflects negatively on me. We are on block schedule ( I see my students every other day for 2 hours). So when “MiMi”’s mother checks her out so she can watch her baby sister while mom goes to work (yes this does happen) and she misses my class weeks at a time (remember I see them every other day), and it’s time for her to take the test and what happens? She fails! And it’s 50% of my evaluation!? No, I think not. There will be a mass exodus of great teachers, particularly from the schools that need it most, if these evaluations are not changed soon.

Lee

April 4th, 2013
5:16 pm

Amen, Rob! Folks try teaching three classrooms of kids who have NEVER passed a standardized test because they are 1) migrant 2) lacking serious reading skills 3) have given up and are not going to try any more. And then there are the ones who just don’t give fig, who are here from Mexico who just want the A/C, the free breakfast and lunch, the 7.5 free, comfortable social hours complete with free WiFi. Think about it folks. YOU are paying for this. Do really good teachers want this? Heck NO!

Private Citizen

April 4th, 2013
5:52 pm

i was driving down the road the other day and it occurred to me that the Finns (Finland with the high scores) do no testing because it is a matter of time / money resources. They spend their money on nice classrooms with windows, and feeding their children wholesome food. They do not waste any money. They spend their time teaching the kids in a low stress every-child-is-special -adnd equal- environment. They do not harass their students and teachers. The government does not tell the schools what to do, how to teach, etc.

Pride and Joy

April 4th, 2013
6:37 pm

Private Citizen,
Finland has the highest standards for teachers. They are the top of the class and all are required to have Masters degrees.
There is one thing every good school system has to have –qualified, competent, educated teachers and in Finland they make a huge effort to make that happen and the results speak for themselves.
Finland has the best schools in the world.

Nick p.

April 4th, 2013
6:37 pm

student surveys are a bit troubling, in my on-level course if you ask the students who is a good teacher you will hear a few names, when you dig deeper they say things such as he lets me go to the bathroom anytime, he gradees our work based on completion not correct or incorrect, when i skip he does not call home and is willing to look the other way, he or she always allows me to turn things late without any consequences, or gives me other assignments to take the place of what i should have done in the first place! i cant wait until student surveys sneak their heads into things, it should really sove the problem! LOL!

Pride and Joy

April 4th, 2013
6:41 pm

PC, but you are using Microsoft products to criticize Bill Gates.
Put your money where your mouth is.

Truth in Moderation

April 4th, 2013
10:59 pm

“The fact is, teachers want to be accountable to their students. What the country needs are thoughtfully developed teacher evaluation SYSTEMS that include multiple measures of performance, such as student surveys, classroom observations by experienced colleagues and student test results.”

GATES IS JUST GIVING FREE ADVERTISING FOR HIS LATEST BUSINESS VENTURE;
InBloom:
http://techcrunch.com/2013/02/05/with-100m-from-the-gates-foundation-others-inbloom-wants-to-transform-education-by-unleashing-its-data/

TEACHERS DON’T FALL FOR THIS! Just QUIT!

Private Citizen

April 5th, 2013
5:43 am

PC, but you are using Microsoft products to criticize Bill Gates.

PJ, You’d have to be the village idiot to ignore the man’s legacy, the company he built, and his history of monopoly. He’s considered a crooked outlaw in Europe and his company was forced to pay a billion dollar fine for simply refusing to follow the law there, by practicing monopoly and bundling applications that from the Europe perspective require competition. You should really own up to the loss of competition and markets in your own country. PJ, Do you go along to get along in computing? I’ve used computing before Gates had a company and I stopped using his stuff 15 years ago and never looked back, although I’ve had to keep a Windows machine for when forced to use their products either through school teaching or university. That’s the whole shift to browser based cloud computing – to get away from the Microsoft monopoly.

Put your money where your mouth is. Money is not required for the best software. Ask Google, Amazon.com, and YouTube. The software they use to run their companies in not based on “money,” it’s based on “brains.” Hows about you put your brain where your materialistic mouth is: http://www.fsf.org/

PS I wonder how long it is going to take for people to realise the software that runs their Android “smart phone” can be used to run desktop computer? Around the time the schools are still using “Windows 12?” Maybe there is an addiction to paying licensing fees, also known as the Microsoft Tax, like a warm fuzzy blanket. You get quite a lot of feel-good marketing for that money – makes you feel “safe and secure” even if your computer is about as secure as Swiss cheese with holes in it. At least you pay extra for it.

Looking for the truth

April 5th, 2013
9:32 am

Student surveys are fraudulent is so many ways. A teacher at our local school has done away with desks, allows students to talk in class, rarely teaches and spends most of his time outside.

Another teacher has her students reading challenging texts and actually working to learn, while the kids are asking why she can’t be more like teacher #1. Which one do you think will get higher “student approval” ratings?

Change Agent

April 5th, 2013
9:43 am

Ask the right questions and students will give honest answers. Students know who the best teachers are in a building. They know when they are learning.

Private Citizen

April 5th, 2013
10:08 am

Looking for the truth, And in today’s work environment, there is real downward pressure from management for teacher to be the feel-good teacher, and as someone here before stated, if you teach content and are determined to do so, you might as well put a target on your back.

CJae of EAV

April 5th, 2013
12:10 pm

@Ernest – And I bet Mr. Elgart has friend who can sell, implement and help maintain a longitudinal grading system for Dekalb and all for and unbelievable price (tongue planted firmly in cheek) !!!
@ Coastal Georgia Teacher – The future state of operations with fully implemented a longitudinal grading system will require the development of more specialized expertise to work in collaboration with teachers to identify trends that can contribute to meaningful adjustments to academic delivery and in some cases provide clues that reveal greater sociological concerns in the student population. While I too have some data privacy concerns about implementation of these systems, I do see some value in them.

Private Citizen

April 5th, 2013
1:42 pm

teachers will no longer be teachers, we will just be miners of data and funnel the students through like cattle

being told “how to teach” the whole way. This “how to teach” supervision is an industry, a portion of the 50% of staff who do not work in the classrooms, they “advise” and “train” how to work in the classroom. Doesn’t matter if you are first year or 10 or 30 years experience, they’ll tell you how to do it and check up that their demands are met.

Ole Guy

April 5th, 2013
3:16 pm

I just love these comments from the REAL WORLD, rather than these superficial utterances and political nonesence from the quicksand of faux education.

home-tutoring parent

April 6th, 2013
1:28 pm

To Dr. John,

My mom agrees with you about Bill Gates.

Whe you say, Oh, yes, “student surveys” ought to really tell you who the best teachers are. Ha!” are you saying you didn’t correctly distinguish excellent from okay from crappy teachers when you were a kid? I could. For example, I asked questions that I knew the answers to, to measure teachers’ responses. The ones who answered them corectly, I treasured. The ones who said, “I don’t know, I’ll get back to you tomorrow,” and then came up with the right answers, I treasured. The ones who gave wrong answers, and expected respect, I realized, “Don’t listen to them.”

For example, I first did this in 2nd grade. “Rawhide” was popular. I asked my mom, “What’s the difference between a bull and a steer?” She had grown up in a farm and ranching family, but we were living in a big city. She told me a steer was a castrated male, the operation was done to regulate their behavior.

Not an embarrasing question, ancient eunichs and modern dogs and cats were routinely neutered.

I posed the same question to my 2nd grade teacher. “Steers are bulls without horns.” (De-horneyed to be sure.) I knew my mom’s answer was right–on “Rawhide” the steers had horns–and the teacher’s answer was wrong. So whenever she said anything, I didn’t know if it was right or wrong, so I largely ignored her to avoid learning things that were false.

I subsequently used this method a lot.

home-tutoring parent

April 6th, 2013
1:42 pm

If you want good teachers, for academic courses, try insisting on having your kids’ teachers be people who made National Honor Society, got 1900+ on the SAT, earned 3.5 to 4.0 college GPAs (lower range for hard colleges, higher range for easy colleges), got 1300+ GRE General Test (Q +V). This isn’t rocket science.

With my kids, their social science and humanities teachers showed 650+ SAT/ GRE knowledge, while their math teachers showed 500-580 knowledge. The latter wasn’t even close to signifying math-teaching competence, for college-prep track