Flirting with Bill: Can Randi Weingarten and Bill Gates Agree on How to Use Data to Establish Teacher Compensation/Evaluation Plans That Are Good For Unions, Schools, Teachers and Students?

The shadow Department of Education is the Bill and  Melinda Gates Foundation, the primary mover of national education policy. The entire small high school creation movement, creating, I believe 1200 small highs nationwide, is a Gates initiative. Last week the leading lights on the education scene gathered in Seattle to listen to the new Gates plan.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today unveiled plans to revamp its high school grantmaking strategy to focus squarely on three pillars: identifying and promoting higher standards for college readiness, improving teacher quality, and fostering innovations to aid struggling students.
There is clearly a huge gap between high school graduation standards and college readiness as mirrored by staggering college dropout rates. With fifty states setting their own high school graduation requirements it will be a challenge for Gates: will he be able to convince the fifty states, and, the feds to set national standards?
Everyone agrees that the classroom teacher, the adult who is in the classroom is the key factor and improving teacher quality is unquestionably the core of improving instruction, and results.
On the teacher front, for instance, the foundation is looking to target grants to help define effective teaching, devise tools to measure it, and work with school districts to develop systems to retain and reward teachers based on their classroom performance, according to a documentRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader outlining Gates’ revamped strategy to promote college readiness.
Gates is taking on a contentious task … how do we measure teacher effectiveness? how do we compensate effectve teaching? should we retain, and dismiss teachers based on data?

On the issue of teacher quality, among the core work Gates will support is designing “measures, observational and evaluation tools, and data systems that can fairly and accurately identify effective teaching,” the strategy document says.

It also will work with districts to develop systems that retain and compensate teachers based on their effectiveness in educating students, and help ensure that high-quality teachers are placed in the schools that need them the most.

The strategy document points to research suggesting that teachers matter most to student learning. It argues that most new teachers are granted tenure after several years with little evaluation of how successful they are at improving student achievement.

“We make no special efforts to reward or retain teachers who have proven themselves particularly effective in the classroom or to put them on a positive career path,” the foundation says.

Policy initiatives affecting teacher evaluation and pay often generate controversy, especially from teachers’ unions, which have raised concerns about the design of many such efforts.

“We believe in incentive systems, but we understand the concerns that without the right design, they could behave arbitrarily or incent the wrong things,” Mr. Gates said at the meeting. “An incentive system needs to be transparent, it needs to make sense … and teachers themselves need to see the benefit of the system and embrace it.”

 Across the nation, in Washington DC, the newly elected president of American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten gave her first major speech. Video clips here and full text here.

 Education Week opines

 Randi Weingarten positioned herself as an education reformer during her first speech in the nation’s capital since taking over as president of the American Federation of Teachers. She signaled her union was wide open to discussing once-taboo issues ranging from merit pay to charter schools to tenure changes. 

 The world of data of getting more and more sophisticated. As Ian Ayres tells us in Super Crunchers: Why Thinking By Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart tools are now available to shift through enormous data sets and draw accurate predictions. We can, or shortly will be able, to tell  which teachers are more effective in raising ELA and Math test scores. Now, teachers rightfully complain that testing is not the “be all” and “end all” of education; however, in too many schools, poor children of color, are not achieving.

If we can identify teachers who can raise standardized test scores should we adequately compensate (i.e., merit or bonus pay) them to work with children in schools that have not been successful? Conversely, if we can identify teachers who have not been unsuccessful should this data be used as part of a dismissal process?

These are weighty issues: teacher unions have been in the forefront of the fight against  the use student testing data to compensate and/or evaluate teachers. Weingarten appears to signal that she is open to exploring these issues.

She may be gagging on Joel,  will she be flirting with Bill?


One response to “Flirting with Bill: Can Randi Weingarten and Bill Gates Agree on How to Use Data to Establish Teacher Compensation/Evaluation Plans That Are Good For Unions, Schools, Teachers and Students?

  1. Bernadette Camberdella

    I agree that the teacher is the most important factor within the classroom in helping students to achieve. I believe, however, that it would be detrimental to education as a whole if the teacher was the only factor evaluated. So many variables within the classroom are directly affected by variables outside the classroom. For example, how can any computer model truly evaluate the circumstances surrounding each student in each class the teacher is expected to teach. Unfortunately administrative power can be used to influence a particular teachers classroom makeup making one teachers students much more challenging than anothers. I feel it would create a system of alliances within schools whereby a game of “survivor” would be played out, ultimately damaging the integrity of school systems nation wide. Unless Bill Gates set up a computer system that could be a fly on every classroom wall with a just and objective panel of jurists to review a year long series of film that documented a roller coaster ride of variables occurring everyday in every classroom in America, then I don’t believe a computer model to evaluate teachers could ever be fair and equitable. Not to mention that the “fly on the wall” proposal would violate a substantial number of Constitutional rights.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s