Does basing teacher evaluation on student test scores get results that impact student outcomes?
That’s the conclusion from a years-long study funded by the Gates Foundation that included Memphis/Shelby County Schools.
Education Week reports:
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s multi-million-dollar, multi-year effort aimed at making teachers more effective largely fell short of its goal to increase student achievement—including among low-income and minority students, a new study found.
Under its intensive partnerships for effective teaching program, the Gates Foundation gave grants to three large school districts—Memphis, Tenn. (which merged with Shelby County during the course of the initiative); Pittsburgh; and Hillsborough County, Fla.—and to one charter school consortium in California starting in the 2009-10 school year. The foundation poured $212 million into these partnerships over about six years, and the districts put up matching funds. The total cost of the initiative was $575 million.
The school sites agreed to design new teacher-evaluation systems that incorporated classroom-observation rubrics and a measure of growth in student achievement. They also agreed to offer individualized professional development based on teachers’ evaluation results, and to revamp recruitment, hiring, and placement. Schools also implemented new career pathways for effective teachers and awarded teachers with bonuses for good performance.
During the course of this failed experiment, Tennessee as a state also implemented the TEAM evaluation system and encouraged districts to offer merit pay schemes to teachers. Additionally, the state used a turnaround strategy for “low-performing” schools known as the Achievement School District. Data released after five years of that project indicates it has made essentially no impact on student outcomes.
Also, for the past four years, Tennessee has been attempting to administer TNReady — to no avail.
Tennessee policymakers are spending millions on education experiments that have yielded no results.
Here’s one thing that hasn’t changed: In 2010, Tennessee was ranked 45th in investment in education per student. In 2017, we’d improved — all the way up to 43rd.
Instead of directing funds to experiments that end up not doing much of anything, perhaps we should be investing our dollars in our schools and teachers. Then, we should also try the one thing we haven’t: Dramatically increasing our per pupil investment in schools.
Tennessee should be funding excellent teacher pay instead of trying to get and keep teachers at discount rates.
Tennessee should be investing in school buildings, to ensure all students have a safe, excellent environment in which to learn.
If Tennessee really wants to turn the tide, we ought to invest like it — ask teachers what they need to be successful and put our money there. For too long, education reform has been something “done to” teachers instead of done with them.
Here’s what we don’t need: Another round of expensive experiments that will leave our students and schools right where we started – behind.
We can do better — we know the answer. Does Tennessee have the political will to make lasting change for our schools through sustained investment in the people that make them work?
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