Bill Gates is dipping his toe in the teacher evaluation debate, believing that videotaping classroom lessons will make for better teachers. His foundation is donating $335 million to not only develop a better system for evaluating the effectiveness of good teaching, but also work to solve the mystery of how best to replicate it.
Back when I was a teacher, my principal would stand at the back of my classroom a few times each year, clip board in hand, ostensibly evaluating my skill as a teacher. For my annual designation of "proficient," few questions were asked and student test scores were never taken into consideration.
Many teachers are still evaluated using the same model. Today's New York Times reports that the occasional classroom visit typically elicits high marks in nine out of 10 cases.
Gates hopes that going forward, digital videos of a teacher's lesson would instead be evaluated by an objective panel of experts, allowing for a better understanding of what makes one teacher substantially better than the next.
From his interview in the Times:
“Some teachers are extremely good. And one of the goals is to say, you know, ‘Let’s go look at those teachers.’ What’s unbelievable is how little the exemplars have been studied. And then saying, ‘O.K., How do you take a math teacher who’s in the third quartile and teach them how to get kids interested—get the kid who’s smart to pay attention, a kid who’s behind to pay attention?’ Teaching a teacher to do that—you have to follow the exemplars.”
Is videotaping teachers a good idea, or does it border on surveillance?
Photo via Travis Dove for The New York Times