Sunday, December 5, 2010

NYTimes spots Gates video effort, omits research purpose

Friday's New York Times describes the video technology being used for the Measuring Effective Teachers initiative funded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  It's an interesting piece about the efficient use of 360-degree cameras to get a panoramic idea of how everyone in the room is affected by a given day's lesson, and the reporting shared several expert opinions on how the technology might move into direct use of teacher evaluations.

That said, I see the article as focusing on the video than on the bigger project the video will support.  Months back, I blogged about the Foundation's own description of the project, which describes the video cameras as a way to allow multiple observers apply several different respected rubrics for classroom observation.  Live observations on the needed scale would be unduly disruptive of ordinary classroom work, which is why the camera strategy was created.

Along with the varied ratings of the videos, the study is gathering data from student surveys about classroom processes, teacher surveys about working conditions, and teacher tests of content knowledge and content teaching methods.

Next year,  each of those indicators will be correlated with several kinds of data on student growth compared to their achievement this year.

With that huge collection of data, the project will be able to offer answers on a really big question:  How well does  each of the gathered indicators (teacher knowledge, surveys, and the different observation protocols) relate to actually delivering student growth?

The NYT coverage could leave the impression that the main point is finding a way to videotape teachers.  Far from it. The video is mainly a tool for developing richer and more important insight into which measurement tools best identify teaching that changes student performance.

Note: The Prichard Committee and I personally have not been involved in the implementation of this Effective Teachers part of the Gates Foundation's education investments.  However, we are working on several of the Gates Foundation's College-Ready Work initiatives (see information here, here, and here), and I have been included in several briefings on the progress of this measurement effort.

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