How to evaluate teachers: The other day, we noted the irony of Michelle Rhee’s campaign against mediocrity in public schools. We noted that Rhee seemed to be quite mediocre, in various ways, as DC school superintendent.
For ourselves, we liked several things about Rhee’s approach—but overall, she was at best mediocre. And if anyone ever doubted that, they should consider her conversation with Charlie Rose last night.
Rhee did a segment with Rose on his eponymous program. In one chunk of their conversation, they discussed the best ways to measure teacher performance.
To call their exchange “mediocre” is to grade on a very soft curve. As they started, Charlie dropped a famous name and Rhee established a principle:
ROSE (2/18/13): Bill Gates was here recently and he talked about teacher performance. How should we measure it?According to Rhee, the Gates people have found that you can measure teacher performance—and not just by looking at student test scores! Expectant, the analysts leaned forward in their chairs.
RHEE: Well, the Gates Foundation has done some amazing work on this front. Because for a long time people said, well, we can’t possibly measure teacher performance, it’s an art and it’s not a science, etc. And what The Gates Foundation has found is that actually you can measure teacher performance.
ROSE: By more than simply test scores of the students.
RHEE: That’s right.
Soon, they slumped in their seats. This was Rhee’s account of the “amazing work” done by the Gates Foundation:
RHEE (continuing directly): Student academic growth should be part of the equation, based on their research. But you should look at observations of classroom practice, you should look at—If you want to know who the good teachers are, you just have to ask the students—or you can ask their parents! This is also a good way to spot the teachers who aren't very good.
Interestingly, they found that how students rated their teachers correlated very highly to teacher overall performance. So, so kids really know whether or not they’re in the classroom of a highly effective teacher or not. But the reality is that we have known for a very long time that we could identify great teachers and identify not-so-great teachers.
You walk into any school building anywhere in this country today and you ask parents or kids or other teachers, "Who’s the best teacher in the school?" They’ll tell you. Say, "Who—who is not so good?" And they’ll tell you that person, too.
So there is a way that we can identify you know where, where different teachers are in terms of their, their performance. We just have to have a commitment to doing so.
Also, “you should look at observations of classroom practice.”
We’re willing to assume that the Gates folk may have come up with more than this. But this really is what Rhee told Rose:
If you want to go beyond student test scores, you can ask the students if their teachers are good, or you can observe the teachers. You can also ask other teachers if a teacher is good.
Charlie listened to this, then moved to another topic.
This exchange doesn’t come within a hundred miles of being “mediocre.” And yet, the Rose program airs on PBS. It is generally bill-boarded as one of our brightest news hours.
Rose was worthless last night, as he usually is when interviewing a Bloomberg favorite. As the week proceeds, we’ll share one or two of last evening’s other exchanges.
To watch last night's segment, click this.