Bill and Melinda Gates on Memphis schools visit, how to evaluate teachers

20101103_hamilton_0200.jpg In a Saturday op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, education philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates discuss their quest to improve teacher performance and the need for schools to evaluate what teachers do and help them do better at it. As part of their Gates Foundation's research, the Gateses sought teacher volunteers last year to participate in a project where their teaching was videotaped and they could then watch themselves work. As The Commercial Appeal reported last November when the Gateses visited some Memphis City Schools:

The Gates Foundation is combing through thousands of hours of video, comparing teachers' performances with their students' test scores to isolate attributes that propel some teachers to the top of their profession .

In the WSJ, the Gateses write that some of the best teachers they observed appreciated the feedback and the opportunity to improve:

The 3,000 teachers who are helping us with the MET project are already getting feedback on their teaching. Last year, we visited Ridgeway Middle School in Memphis and sat down with Mahalia Davis while she watched a videotape of herself teaching. Ms. Davis had many years of experience, and it was obvious to us that she was a standout. She watched her video because she wanted to get even better at something she already did well.

We were impressed by how much Ms. Davis enjoyed taking apart the craft of her own teaching. She leaned forward in her chair and said, "Look, I just lost that student." Then she said, "The class wasn't with me on that point. I need to teach that concept in a new way."

Another interesting finding from the Gates Foundation's teacher surveys:

The teachers who took the survey were given a list of 15 things that might help to retain the best teachers. Higher salaries ranked 11th on the list, behind benefits like more time for preparation and opportunities for professional development.

PICTURED: Bill Gates visits with students in a math class at Hamilton High School during a visit on Nov. 3, 2010. (Photo by Barbara Kinney/Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

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