In his 2010 annual letter, Bill Gates described his foundation’s recent $335 million investment in developing evaluation systems to improve teacher effectiveness as a “high risk” initiative that could fail.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has made grants in Hillsborough County, Fla.; Los Angeles; Pittsburgh; and Memphis, Tenn., to create systems to support teachers, he said. (Editorial Projects in Education, the publisher of the Teacher PD Sourcebook, also receives funding from the Gates Foundation.)
“A key point of contention about an evaluation system is how much it will [be used to] identify teachers who are not good and don’t improve,” Gates wrote. “A better system should certainly identify the small minority who don’t belong in teaching, but its key benefit is that it will help most teachers improve.”
He added that, “A new system requires more than just taking the test scores of the students and seeing how they improve after a year with a teacher. It also involves things like feedback from students, parents, and peer teachers and an investment of time in reviewing actual teaching.”
The projects require both creating an innovation—ways to evaluate teachers and help them improve—and delivering the innovation, Gates explained. That will require teachers to embrace some changes.
“Teachers will be evaluated and given incentive pay based on excellence,” Gates said.
“Previous efforts along these lines seemed to thrive for a few years,” he added, “but if the system is not well run or if teachers reject differentiation, it gets shut down.”
A version of this article appeared in the April 12, 2010 edition of Teacher PD Sourcebook