From the Washington Post article
The article explains why the Gates Foundation is focused on effective teaching:
"The key to helping students learn is making sure that every child has an effective teacher every single year.
Teachers are at the center of our strategy at the Gates Foundation. Since my husband and I started investing in education 10 years ago, our foundation has partnered with more than 1,000 high schools. Our grantmaking wasn't always oriented around effective teaching, but gradually we noticed that the schools with the biggest gains were those doing revolutionary work inside the classroom."
She asks the question,
"So why hasn't education policy focused more on raising teacher effectiveness? The country has tried a lot of (outrageously expensive) reforms that don't improve student outcomes -- such as reducing class size by one or two students and paying teachers to get master's degrees. Part of the problem is that it's so hard to measure teaching. Anyone who has ever been inspired by a teacher knows that pedagogy is both a science and an art. Finding a sensitive instrument to evaluate it has been a huge obstacle. Tests yield clear numerical grades, but they can't measure all the intangibles that make a teacher effective.
To help surmount this logjam, a team of researchers (with support from the Gates Foundation) is working with more than 3,000 teachers in seven school districts to develop measures of teacher effectiveness. The project uses seven methods, including videotaping classes, analyzing test scores, and surveying teachers, students and parents."
I find it encouraging that the methods the foundation is using all have high effect sizes according to John Hattie's Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta Analyses Relating to Achievement. .
Unfortunately, the Race to the Top $ is being awarded now with strings attached to teacher effectiveness that has not been defined by this ongoing research. Will teachers get stuck with being tied to standardized test scores as a quick response?
I don't think it's fair to tie a teacher's pay to the performance of his/her students if the teaching does not have control of the materials and curriculum they are using to meet the state standards. If those decisions are made at the state/district level then those are the people who should be accountable for the scores. If you force materials and curriculum on teachers than they should only be held accountable for fidelity of implementation (sound familiar?) - ie how well they follow the script.
Most of the teachers I know did not sign up to be script readers. They are professionals who work hard to craft a learning environment for their students and they understand that learning is a process and part of learning is building personal relationships with their students.