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February 1, 2013
Vol. 70
No. 5

Reader Response

Teacher Evaluation: Not That Simple

In "The MET Project: The Wrong $45 Million Question" (Educational Leadership, November 2012), Rachael Gabriel and Richard Allington present a thoughtful critique of the Gates-funded MET (Measures of Effective Teaching) Project and teacher evaluation systems in general. They correctly point out that criteria for teacher evaluation not only reflect but also drive the values that underlie our education goals for children.
However, their criticism oversimplifies the MET Project and misrepresents the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) measure.
The article suggests that the CLASS measure imposes one set of values of what good teaching looks like—"extroverted displays of enthusiasm." This ignores two key principles that the CLASS system emphasizes: First, the system focuses on teacher-student interactions that are empirically linked to key student outcomes, including social skills, peer relationships, engagement in learning, and academic achievement. Second, the CLASS measure deliberately encompasses warm, supportive, and stimulating interactions, looking for evidence of connections between teachers and students; thoughtful use of students' time; and the use of dialogue, inquiry, and problem-solving to deepen engagement and knowledge.
In contrast to the authors' assertion, KIPP classrooms that require students to "Sit up, Listen, Ask questions, Nod, and Track the speaker" could score very high on the CLASS observation, as the measure recognizes the value of using proactive behavior management and efforts to facilitate students' engagement in learning.
Finally, the authors find fault with the field's current focus on student growth and college readiness, pointing out that these boil down to test scores, grades, and scores on SATs. Although we agree these are imperfect measures of student growth, we also recognize that student growth is the main purpose of instruction. As the field matures, better ways to measure student growth and readiness will emerge.
The authors have provided a valid critique that deserves consideration. However, their overly simplistic descriptions, particularly of the CLASS observation, give credence to their contention that we need to dig deeper and understand better in order to do this work well. We ultimately see strong alignment between the authors' goals and the goals of the CLASS framework.
<ATTRIB> Laurie McCullough is Chief Strategy Officer and Virginia Vitiello is Research and Evaluation Director at Teachstone in Charlottesville, Virginia. </ATTRIB>

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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