Combined Measures Can Reliably Rate Teacher Effectiveness, Study Finds

Fair and reliable measures of effective teaching can be developed by combining classroom observations, student surveys, and student achievement gains, a final report from the Measures of Effective Teaching project argues.

A three-year effort funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to determine how to best identify and promote great teaching practice, the MET project demonstrated that students randomly assigned to teachers previously identified as more effective — as measured through a combination of classroom observations, student surveys, and achievement gains — performed better, in line with predictions. The report, Ensuring Fair and Reliable Measures of Effective Teaching (28 pages, PDF), also found that combining multiple measures of effective teaching produced more consistent ratings than student achievement measures alone, with a composite that assigned between 33 percent and 50 percent of the weight to state test scores most reliably predicting student gains on multiple assessments. The collaboration among independent research teams and nearly three thousand teacher volunteers also found that adding a second classroom observer increased reliability significantly more than having the same observer score an additional lesson.

In a separate report, the Gates Foundation released a set of guiding principles for states and districts to consider when developing and implementing improvement-focused evaluation systems. Based on findings from the MET project and the experiences of the foundation's partner districts over the past four years, Feedback for Better Teaching: Nine Principles for Using Measures of Effective Teaching (12 pages, PDF) outlines the need to set expectations, use multiple evaluation measures, monitor the validity and ensure the accuracy of those measures, prioritize support and feedback, and use data for decisions at all levels.

"Teaching is complex, and great practice takes time, passion, high-quality materials, and tailored feedback designed to help each teacher continuously grow and improve," said Vicki Phillips, director of education for the Gates Foundation's College-Ready Education program. "Teachers have always wanted better feedback, and the MET project has highlighted tools like student surveys and observations that can allow teachers to take control of their own development. The combination of those measures and student growth data creates actionable information that teachers can trust."

"Measures of Effective Teaching Project Releases Final Research Report." Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Press Release 01/08/2013.