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Topic: [ncsm-members] Shame Is Not the Solution
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
[ncsm-members] Shame Is Not the Solution
Posted: Feb 23, 2012 4:10 PM
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From The New York Times [Opinion Pages], Tuesday, February 22, 2012.
Op-Ed Contributor

Shame Is Not the Solution

By Bill Gates

LAST week, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that teachers'
individual performance assessments could be made public. I have no
opinion on the ruling as a matter of law, but as a harbinger of
education policy in the United States, it is a big mistake.

I am a strong proponent of measuring teachers' effectiveness, and my
foundation works with many schools to help make sure that such
evaluations improve the overall quality of teaching. But publicly
ranking teachers by name will not help them get better at their jobs
or improve student learning. On the contrary, it will make it a lot
harder to implement teacher evaluation systems that work.

In most public schools today, teachers are simply rated
"satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory," and evaluations consist of having
the principal observe a class for a few minutes a couple of times
each year. Because we are just beginning to understand what makes a
teacher effective, the vast majority of teachers are rated
"satisfactory." Few get specific feedback or training to help them

Many districts and states are trying to move toward better personnel
systems for evaluation and improvement. Unfortunately, some education
advocates in New York, Los Angeles and other cities are claiming that
a good personnel system can be based on ranking teachers according to
their "value-added rating" - a measurement of their impact on
students' test scores - and publicizing the names and rankings online
and in the media. But shaming poorly performing teachers doesn't fix
the problem because it doesn't give them specific feedback.

Value-added ratings are one important piece of a complete personnel
system. But student test scores alone aren't a sensitive enough
measure to gauge effective teaching, nor are they diagnostic enough
to identify areas of improvement. Teaching is multifaceted, complex
work. A reliable evaluation system must incorporate other measures of
effectiveness, like students' feedback about their teachers and
classroom observations by highly trained peer evaluators and

Putting sophisticated personnel systems in place is going to take a
serious commitment. Those who believe we can do it on the cheap - by
doing things like making individual teachers' performance reports
public - are underestimating the level of resources needed to spur
real improvement.

At Microsoft, we created a rigorous personnel system, but we would
never have thought about using employee evaluations to embarrass
people, much less publish them in a newspaper. A good personnel
system encourages employees and managers to work together to set
clear, achievable goals. Annual reviews are a diagnostic tool to help
employees reflect on their performance, get honest feedback and
create a plan for improvement. Many other businesses and public
sector employers embrace this approach, and that's where the focus
should be in education: school leaders and teachers working together
to get better.

Fortunately, there are a few places where teachers and school leaders
are collaborating on the hard work of building robust personnel
systems. My wife, Melinda, and I recently visited one of those
communities, in Tampa, Fla. Teachers in Hillsborough County Public
Schools receive in-depth feedback from their principal and from a
peer evaluator, both of whom have been trained to analyze classroom

We were blown away by how much energy people were putting into the
new system - and by the results they were already seeing in the
classroom. Teachers told us that they appreciated getting feedback
from a peer who understood the challenges of their job and from their
principal, who had a vision of success for the entire school.
Principals said the new system was encouraging them to spend more
time in classrooms, which was making the culture in Tampa's schools
more collaborative. For their part, the students we spoke to said
they'd seen a difference, too, and liked the fact that peer observers
asked for their input as part of the evaluation process.

Developing a systematic way to help teachers get better is the most
powerful idea in education today. The surest way to weaken it is to
twist it into a capricious exercise in public shaming. Let's focus on
creating a personnel system that truly helps teachers improve.
Bill Gates is co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
A version of this op-ed appeared in print on February 23, 2012, on
page A27 of the New York edition with the headline: Shame Is Not the
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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