Monday, December 13, 2010

Program Evaluation and Teaching Effectiveness

The New York Times today published an article about a new study showing that student rankings of teacher effectiveness correlate with how much students learn in a school year, as measured by an increase in test scores. The study, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is part of a larger effort by the Foundation to work with several districts to improve their teaching effectiveness.

Students filled out confidential surveys about their teachers, and researchers found that teachers who received positive reviews also tended to have students whose test scores improved over the school year. However, teachers who had their classes spend "a lot of time... practicing for the state test" consistently had lower rankings by students as well as lower test scores. This interesting finding has a lot of implications for education reform, and raises some questions about teaching effectiveness in out-of-school time as well.

Many afterschool STEM programs--including museum exhibits and programs, summer camps, and other opportunities for learning in out-of-school time--undergo evaluation to find out how well they are fulfilling their organization's mission or program's goals. This process, though often time-consuming, can be very important for keeping the program up-to-date with current educational standards and expectations as well as essential for proving success to current or potential funders. But how often does that evaluation process include input from students or participants? 

Since afterschool program effectiveness many not be measured against test scores, another metric must be used to gather data or feedback on the program's teaching effectiveness. Participant feedback--from students or adults--provides meaningful data on how well the program is doing, and what it could do to improve. Though this study specifically addressed in-school time teaching, hopefully it will provide afterschool programs with an impetus to have themselves evaluated and make an even greater case for out-of-school time education.

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