Every aspect of a student’s academic production is assigned a number. Tests get a percentage, papers and essays get letter grades. These letter grades are in turn averaged and become GPAs. Standardized tests place students in percentiles. These numbers become the foremost measure of a student’s abilities.
But how do we quantify a teacher’s abilities? Is the performance of their students enough?
It’s been shown that quality of teaching makes one of the biggest impacts on student performance. That’s why the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is launching a three-year study to determine the components of effective teaching. “Do they work longer hours? Do they break the classroom down more?” Asks Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The study is called Measures of Effective Teaching, and will evaluate 3,000 teachers from across the nation. The project will cost half a billion dollars.
The teachers will be evaluated by video, self-reporting, student questionnaires, and the performance of their students on standardized tests. While much controversy swirls around the usefulness and fairness of standardized tests, which are to receive a massive overhaul in the next five years, Gates insists that measurably is key to improving education. “If you want something to be excellent, it can’t go unmeasured.” The study aims to deconstruct good teaching, presumably so that it can be reproduced elsewhere. “We’ll know more about what a great teacher looks like,” says Gates.