The New York Times recently ran two articles on videotaped observations for teacher evaluation. One of the articles reported that Bill Gates has invested $335 million on research to evaluate this approach ("Teacher Ratings Get New Look, Pushed by a Rich Watcher," Dec. 3).
Research uses a bogus measure: The goal of the Gates-funded research is to find correlations between teaching practices observed on the videotapes and achievement. Achievement will be measured by the use of value-added scores, gains on standardized tests. The use of value-added scores has already been thoroughly criticized as being unstable and invalid as a measure of teaching effectiveness. The Times did not mention the controversy surrounding the use of value-added ratings, sending the incorrect message that the use of this method is perfectly fine.
The expense: If they are "validated," the use of videotaped observations by school districts promises to be extremely expensive. The estimated cost, according to a private company quoted in the Times, is about one million dollars per year ($1.5 million start-up, $800,000 per year) for a district with 140 schools and 7000 teachers. Extrapolated to the entire country, using a conservative estimate of 10,000 districts in the US, this amounts to about ten billion dollars. (Assuming $150 per teacher, and about 40 million teachers in the US, the estimate is six billion dollars per year.) Paying this much money to private companies for cameras, software, etc, makes no sense at a time when school districts are suffering huge financial problems.
Unnecessary: Despite constant claims in the media, there is no evidence that there is a serious crisis in teacher quality in the United States. When we control for poverty, American students score at the top of the world on international tests. This means there is no serious problem in teacher quality, teacher education or teacher evaluation.
Conclusion: Videotaped observations for teacher evaluation (VOTE?) is another red herring, a distraction from the real problem. The real problem is poverty, and the real solution is protecting children from the effects of poverty. Spending an extra six to ten billion per year on nutrition, health care, and school libraries makes more sense than spending it on video-taping teachers.
I vote no on VOTE.
Value-added measures: Sass, T. 2008. The stability of value-added measures of teacher quality and implications for teacher compensation policy. Washington DC: CALDER. (National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Educational Research.); Kane, T. and Staiger, D. 2009. Estimating Teacher Impacts on Student Achievement: An Experimental Evaluation. NBER Working Paper No. 14607 http://www.nber.org/papers/w14607;Papay, J. 2010. Different tests, different answers: The stability of teacher value-added estimates across outcome measures. American Educational Research Journal 47,2.
When we control for poverty: Bracey, G. (2009). Education Hell: Rhetoric versus reality. Alexandria, VA: Educational Research Service; Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13.
Nutrition, health care: Berliner, D. 2006. Our impoverished view of research. Teachers College Review 108 (6): 949-995; Coles, G. 2008/2009. Hunger, academic success, and the hard bigotry of indifference. Rethinking Schools 23, 2.
School libraries: Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Heinemann Publishers and Libraries Unlimited.