News You Can Use & More from the Carnegie Foundation
Some of the News Fit to Print
A FAIRER WAY TO EVALUATE TEACHERS
Bill Gates provides this commentary in The Washington Post: Tom Brady may be the best quarterback in football, but he is also infamously, hilariously slow. YouTube videos of his 40-yard dash have gotten many thousands of hits from sports fans looking for a good laugh. If the New England Patriots had chosen a quarterback based only on foot speed, they would have missed out on three Super Bowl victories. But National Football League teams ask prospects to run, jump and lift weights. They interview them for hours. They watch game film. In short, they use multiple measures to determine the best players. In much the same way that sports teams identify and nurture talent, there is a window of opportunity in public education to create systems that encourage and develop fantastic teachers, leading to better results for students. Efforts are being made to define effective teaching and give teachers the support they need to be as effective as possible. But as states and districts rush to implement new teacher development and evaluation systems, there is a risk they’ll use hastily contrived, unproven measures. One glaring example is the rush to develop new assessments in grades and subjects not currently covered by state tests. Some states and districts are talking about developing tests for all subjects, including choir and gym, just so they have something to measure.
OUTSIDERS SHOULD EVALUATE TEACHERS AS WELL AS STUDENTS
Edward Glaeser writes in Bloomberg: The most important determinant of educational quality is teacher quality. Yet, as a recent study of school principals’ permissiveness in teacher evaluations and a cheating scandal in Atlanta show, this performance is difficult to measure. The best way forward is to move the evaluation of teachers outside the schools entirely, with standardized tests administered by an independent agency. This would be supplemented by classroom assessments based on unobtrusive videotaping, also judged by outsiders, including teachers’ representatives. Researchers have long noted the power that teachers have over student test scores. In an influential paper published in 2005, economists Steven Rivkin, Eric Hanushek and John Kain examined administrative data in Texas and found that 15 percent of the differences in students’ math scores were explained by variations in teacher quality. The difference in test-score gains between a teacher who is rated average and one who is better than 85 percent of educators generates the same improvement as dropping class size by 10.
ABOUT HIGHER ED
INTEL ON ADAPTIVE LEARNING
Adaptive learning is hot. The technology, loosely defined as data-driven tools that can help professors mold coursework around individual students’ abilities, is developing at a dizzying pace. And colleges have been hard-pressed to keep up with the mishmash of adaptive offerings from emerging firms. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is trying to lend a hand. Foundation representatives believe adaptive learning has plenty of potential, both to help more students earn a college credential and to do so more efficiently. So the foundation footed the bill to bring together leaders from a group of a dozen relatively tech-savvy colleges and two associations to share information. Formed last May, the loose coalition ranges from the University of Texas at Austin to American Public University and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. The group has met three times. One attendee calls it the most diverse gathering of institutions he’s seen in 40 years on the job. The article is in Inside HigherEd.
SEBASTIAN THRUN'S ONLINE GOAL: ACT WHERE COLLEGE ISN'T WORKING
Udacity is growing up. The online education company, founded by former Google research whiz Sebastian Thrun, made awkward waves last year when Thrun suggested that in 50 years there would be only 10 higher-education institutions left in the world — and that he intended to stand among them. Now Thrun has a more peaceful message. “We’re trying to reach people outside the current context of college,” Thrun declared in a Palo Alto, Calif., talk this week sponsored by the Commonwealth Club. He acknowledged this is a departure from his earlier career as a tenured professor in computer science at two elite universities: Carnegie-Mellon and Stanford universities. But he said he is drawn to less-famous corners of education where the unmet needs are greatest. The article is in Forbes.