Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Foundation Airs Model to Evaluate Teachers Observations, Tests, Pupil Surveys Used

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Foundation Airs Model to Evaluate Teachers Observations, Tests, Pupil Surveys Used

Article excerpt

After studying the classrooms of 3,000 teachers, including some in Pittsburgh Public Schools, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has concluded the best way to determine teacher effectiveness is to use a combination of state test results, observations and student surveys.

The foundation Tuesday released the final findings from its three- year Measuring Effective Teaching project.

The MET study -- which focused on math and English language arts teachers -- builds on its earlier reports by fleshing out the best ways to use the measures.

It concludes that using the measures results in correctly identifying more effective teachers who cause students to do better on state tests as well as on other more cognitively challenging tests.

It also concludes that testing data give teachers better feedback for improving their practice.

Many teachers do not have state test data for their students because the tests are given only in a limited number of disciplines. In Pittsburgh, only about 35 to 40 percent of teachers have state test scores that can be used for evaluation.

In a phone news conference, Vicki Phillips, director of education, College Ready - U.S. Program for the foundation, said more work needs to be done on that question.

"I think you'll hear us have more to say about it going forward," she said.

When test data are used, the report on reliable measures said it "unambiguously" recommends the scores should be adjusted to account for the students' prior performance.

Traditionally, Pennsylvania teachers have been evaluated based on classroom observation -- often a single visit by a principal -- which resulted in 99 percent of them being judged satisfactory.

The MET study concluded that classroom observation alone -- even when done twice by one trained observer and two more times by another -- "performed far worse than any of our multiple measures composites."

Starting in 2013-14, Pennsylvania will require school districts to base half of the teacher evaluation on observation and the rest on "multiple measures of student achievement."

For the observation portion, the Pennsylvania districts will be using Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Teaching, which was used in the MET study and is used in Pittsburgh Public Schools.

In addition to 50 percent for observation, under the state's formula for multiple measures, 15 percent will be based on building- level data, 15 percent on teacher-specific data and 20 percent on elective data. The building-level and teacher-specific data are based on state test results.

The state law does not specifically name student surveys, but Pittsburgh plans to seek permission to use such surveys and to allot different weights to the measures than the law states.

Pittsburgh, which has a $40 million grant from Gates for the district's Empowering Effective Teachers program, also has a much smaller grant for its participation in the MET study, which largely included the student surveys. …

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