Feb 4 2013

2013 Letter from Bill Gates on Improving US K-12 Teaching

“I think the most critical change we can make in U.S. K-12 education is to create teacher feedback systems that are properly funded, high-quality, and trusted by teachers.  These measurement systems need to provide teachers with the tools to help support their professional development. The lessons from these efforts will help us improve teacher education programs. The countries that have better education systems than the United States provide more teacher feedback than we do today…”

—Bill Gates, 2013 Letter

Starting in 2009, the Gates Foundation funded Measures of Effective Teaching, a project involving 3,000 classroom teachers to  understand how to build an evaluation and feedback system to help teachers improve.  The results announced in January 2013 concluded there were observable, repeatable, and verifiable ways of measuring teacher effectiveness.  Measures that schools should use to assess teacher performance include student surveys and reports from trained evaluators who observe teachers at work.

One school that implemented the techniques is the Eagle County School District in Colorado.  Nearly half its 6,300 students are Hispanic and the district has one of the highest rates of English language learners in the state.  Over the course of a school year, each of Eagle County’s 470 teachers is evaluated three times and observed in class at least nine times. The process starts with Mentor Teachers spending 30 percent of their time observing their colleagues in their classrooms and coaching them in areas that need improvement. Then a Master Teacher and the principal observe classes, some with advance notice, and others unannounced. Master Teachers, who dedicate 70 percent of their time to this work, hold conferences with the teacher before each planned evaluation and give feedback afterwards. The evaluations are used to give a teacher not only a score but also specific feedback on areas to improve and ways to build on their strengths. In addition to one-on-one coaching, Mentors and Masters lead weekly group meetings in which teachers discuss student work and collaborate to spread their skills.  Teachers are eligible for annual salary increases and bonuses based on the classroom observations and student achievement.

Colorado state law mandates that by the 2013-2014 school year ratings for all teachers should be based half on the change in students’ test results and half on other measures.

Read Bill Gates 2013 Letter on Feedback for Teacher Growth

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