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Bill Gates on Teacher Evaluations

February 24, 2012

Over the past two days the NY Times has been full of articles about the recent court decision to allow the posting of “teacher ratings”, concocted based on test results from a discredited assessment. Staff writer Winnie Hu offered an overview article in today’s paper, which included quotes from teachers and the union president expressing anger and dismay and a quote from the current superintendent urging teachers to put this all in perspective. The article also included links to their blog page where I found this article entitled: Ravitch Says New Evaluation System is “Madness”. But one of the unlikely opponents of this public posting of test results was Bill Gates, who wrote yesterday’s lead editorial titled “For Teachers, Shame is No Solution”. The article describes the thoughtful and thorough process his organization uses to evaluate personnel. But Gates makes a common error in suggesting that public schools embrace an idea that works in the private sector: operating in the public arena requires operating in the full light of the sun. Closing a school, for example, isn’t nearly as easy as closing a factory: no one asked folks in Canaan VT for their opinion when the Ethan Allen plant closed but the community is going to spend three years trying to forge a consensus (IF one is possible) on school consolidation in the Canaan area. For better or worse, schools operate democratically and part of a democratic operation is making many of our “records” public. Any form of performance pay will necessarily require public disclosure  the names of teachers who warrant bonuses. This is antithetical to what occurs in the private sector where compensation levels are considered proprietary.

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