Schools Matter has a series of posts up on the Measuring Effectiveness in Teaching project sponsored by the Gates Foundation.
Of note is the use of video cameras to record Tennessee classrooms and transmit the data for use in analyzing teaching behavior. According to information obtained by Schools Matter, 120 schools in TN are using or have used the cameras to record classrooms.
The cameras were obtained and installed thanks to a grant from the Gates Foundation in the amount of $3.2 million.
The goal of the project is to take into account various measures of teaching practice and then use that information to determine what makes an “effective teacher.”
While not explicitly stated, it seems likely that the project will ultimately match up teachers with high value-added scores and their videotapes so as to determine which practices are most effective. Teachers will then be encouraged to adopt the model practices as captured on video.
While this in itself is not bad practice, it is important that any data collected in this way is put to good use. That is, it’s not enough to tape the lessons. Will the TNDOE use the information to help coach struggling teachers? Will the TNDOE invest funds to provide early career mentoring, a method proven to increase teacher retention and improve teacher performance?
And, while at the outset, the idea behind the project seems to have some merit, the folks at Schools Matter raise some serious concerns.
Do teachers consent to have their classes taped? Are parents informed when a camera is used to tape their student in class? Is the use of this data made clear to both teachers and parents?
According to this piece, the cameras are turned on and off by the teacher and uploaded to the teacher’s account for sharing to appropriate parties. Certainly, that would include an administrator and also the data collection group. So, it seems the teacher does have some control over when or whether the camera is on — unless there is a district or building policy dictating otherwise.
While the MET project may yet yield some interesting information, it’s not clear what will be done with that information. And it’s not clear that the implementation of this project in Tennessee has been carried out with full disclosure to both teachers and parents.
If the basis of the project is to match teaching practices to value-added scores, I’d urge at least some caution.
Districts participating should inform parents about the collection of this data and how it may be used.
And, if the project DOES yield useful information, Tennessee should dispatch that information with an investment in training and support of its teachers.
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