November 3, 2015

Bill Gates blows it again

Valierie Strauss, Washington Post - Empowering Effective Teachers, an educator evaluation program in Hillsborough County, Florida, was developed in 2009 with major financial backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. A total of more than $180 million has been spent on the project since then — with Gates initially promising some $100 million of it — but now, the district, one of the largest in the country, is ending the program.


Under the system, 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation would be based on student standardized test scores and the rest by observation from “peer evaluators.” It turned out that costs to maintain the program unexpectedly rose, forcing the district to spend millions of dollars more than it expected to spend. Furthermore, initial support among teachers waned, with teachers saying that they don’t think it accurately evaluated their effectiveness and that they could be too easily fired.

Now the new superintendent of schools in Hillsborough, Jeff Eakins, said in a missive sent to the evaluators and mentors that he is moving to a different evaluation system, according to this story in the Tampa Bay Times.  It says:

Unlike the complex system of evaluations and teacher encouragement that cost more than $100 million to develop and would have cost an estimated $52 million a year to sustain, Hillsborough will likely move to a structure that has the strongest teachers helping others at their schools.

Eakins said he envisions a new program featuring less judgmental “non-evaluative feedback” from colleagues and more “job-embedded professional development,” which is training undertaken in the classroom during the teacher work day rather than in special sessions requiring time away from school. He said in his letter that these elements were supported by “the latest research.”

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