Studies Give Nuanced Look at Teacher Effectiveness

The massive Measures of Effective Teaching Project is finding that teacher effectiveness assessments similar to those used in some district value-added systems aren't good at showing which differences are important between the most and least effective educators, and often totally misunderstand the "messy middle" that most teachers occupy. Yet the project's latest findings suggest more nuanced teacher tests, multiple classroom observations and even student feedback can all create a better picture of what effective teaching looks like.

Researchers dug into the latest wave of findings from the study of more than 3,000 classes for a standing-room-only ballroom at the American Educational Research Association's annual conference here on Saturday.

"The beauty of multiple measures isn't that there are more of them—more can be more confusing—these need to be alligned to the outcomes we care about," said Steve Cantrell, who oversees the MET project for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Existing teacher evaluation systems often use indicators that are not effective at guaging student achievement, and moreover that lump teachers into too-simplistic categories.

"The middle is a lot messier than a lot of state policies would lead us to believe," Cantrell said. "Teachers don't fall neatly into quartiles. Based on the practice data, if I look at the quartiles, all that separates the 25th and 75th on a class (observation) instrument is .68—less than 10 percent of the scale distribution. In a lot of systems, the 75th percentile teacher is considered a leader and the 25th percentile considered a laggard. ...This would suggest they're a lot closer than being off by two categories."

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Recruiting the best?


This goal – recruiting and retaining talented people into teaching – is shared by most everyone, but it is among the most central emphases of the diverse group that might be called market-based reformers. Their idea is to change compensation structures, performance evaluations and other systems in order to create the kind of environment that will be appealing to high-achieving, less risk-averse people, as well as to ensure that those who aren’t cut out for the job are compelled to leave. This will, so the argument goes, create a “dynamic profession” more in line with the high risk, high reward model common among the private sector firms competing for the same pool of young workers.

No matter your feelings on TFA, it’s more than fair to say that their corps members fit this profile perfectly. On paper, they aren’t just “top third,” but top third of the top third. TFA cohorts enter the labor market having been among the highest achievers in the best colleges and universities in the nation. Getting accepted to the program is very, very difficult. Those who make it are not only service-oriented, but also smart, hard-working and ambitious. They are exactly the kind of worker that employers crave, and market-based reformers have made it among their central purposes to attract to the profession.

Yet, at least by the standard of test-based productivity, TFA teachers really don’t do better, on average, than their peers, and when there are demonstrated differences, they are often relatively small and concentrated in math (the latter, by the way, might suggest the role of unobserved differences in content knowledge). Now, again, there is some variation in the findings, and the number and scope of these analyses are limited – we’re nowhere near some kind of research consensus on these comparisons of test-based productivity, to say nothing of other sorts of student outcomes.
But, to me, one of the big, underdiscussed lessons of TFA is less about the program itself than what the test-based empirical research on its corps members suggests about the larger issue of teacher recruitment. Namely, it indicates that “talent” as typically gauged in the private sector may not make much of a difference in the classroom, at least not by itself. This doesn’t necessarily mean that market-based policies won’t lure great teachers, but it does suggest that, if we’re going to enact massive changes in personnel policy to attract a certain “type” of person to teaching, we might reexamine our assumptions on who we’re trying to attract and what they want.


Ohio funding formula - hearings scheduled

We recently reported that it was unlikely that a new school funding formula would be rolled out this year.

If you're a school administrator, wondering what your next budget is going to look like, waiting for the release of a new school funding formula, our advice is "don't hold your breath".

Former State Rep Stephen Dyer writes today, "Ohio House Republicans announced today another series of hearings on K-12 funding and reform to be led by state Rep. Ron Amstutz, R-Wooster."

He goes on to advise

Having already led a series of hearings on this topic myself, I will give Rep. Amstutz a piece of advice: Don't start from scratch. Take advantage of these unprecedented exams of how funding and reform should work in Ohio. Just because the previous three were led by folks from another party doesn't mean they were devoid of merit. The SFAC was equal part D and R appointments. My hearings were dominated by R-backing Charter Schools. Strickland's meetings included folks from all parties.

There's a lot of money involved, and we're in an election year. Expecting this process to produce a "countrys best" funding formula is a lofty expectation that is certain to disappoint.

As we stated earlier, we suggest that they were a little trigger happy in shooting down the Evidence Based Model, and perhaps they could perform some CPR and bring it back with their own modifications.

Whatever happens, at some point legislators and the Governor must recognize they have a constitutional duty to deliver a quality, fair and equitable public education.

Top 3 Today

Your top 3 news stories today

  1. Big City Mayors don't like S.B.5
    But while many mayors at the start supported the governor's drive to revise binding arbitration rules, they now say Kasich went too far and that the wholesale changes in the collective bargaining law are unacceptable. All but one of the mayors of the state's five largest cities are now publicly blasting SB5 as an attack on middle class families.
  2. Bigger deficits for states without collective bargaining
    There is no evidence to suggest that collective bargaining is the cause of overall budget challenges," former Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper told an Ohio House committee in March. "Many states without collective bargaining, such as Arizona, Nevada and North Carolina, have far larger budget deficits than many that do, including Ohio.
    How long would Governors Kasich, Walker and Christie survive in the classroom?