Smile! You’re on Not-So-Candid Camera

Sam Dillon  tackles the question of teacher evaluations in the Times today with a front-page  story pegged to Bill Gates’ investment of $335 million in overhauling teacher evaluation systems.

I’m not sure how you can make it through a feature on teacher practices and evaluations without mentioning Doug Lemov or his Teach Like a Champion (still ranked #1 in Amazon sales categories of pedagogy, instruction method, and professional development) or Fordham’s new Cracks in the Ivory Tower? report – but those things happen.

Dillon does quote Deborah Loewenberg Ball, dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Education, who was a panelist at last Thursday’s Fordham forum on Ivory Tower, saying that the new initiative “is huge,” attempting “something nobody’s done before.”

What that something is is cameras in the classroom.

Though Dillon mentions value-added modeling, he says that the Gates researchers use it “as a starting point,” and spends most of the rest of the piece discussing their use of cameras to capture teachers in action in the classroom – they hope to have 64,000 hours of classroom video by the end of the project and have already begun the process of looking for  “correlations between certain teaching practices and high student achievement” and “scoring” the lessons.

Teacher unions remain wary.  But it surely seems that we are headed to the wired and videotaped classroom.

Though researchers and educators promise confidentiality and that the tapes would be for evaluation purposes only, I can see the Fall television lineup now:  Cops followed by Teachers. And there are whole new opportunties for reviving Friday Night Fights.

Stay tuned.

–Peter Meyer

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