Empowering Teacher Self-Assessment Should Become The Modern Benchmark In Student Learning and Classroom Inspiration

Dr. Jim Lewis

Edweek recently published a story on a study released from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Teacher Effectiveness —  http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/01/08/17teach_ep.h32.html?tkn=XQSF/Rt5Y0QfRrL10tg5JOZyRSdR2Eozgzl6&cmp=ENL-EU-NEWS2.  The findings have been widely covered in mainstream media and we wanted to offer up some food for thought in the teacher effectiveness discussion.

For as long as I care to remember in my 40 years in education, a teacher’s predominant measure of effectiveness has been dead-locked in standardized classroom assessment testing.  As this article in Edweek with supporting evidence from Gates Foundation research asserts, a much more accurate teacher assessment can be derived from a combination of student feedback, test-score growth calculations, and observations of practice.  Viewed in composite, this more modern approach gathers different but complementary information that, combined, can provide a more balanced and accurate picture of individual teacher performance and effectiveness.

Think about assessment objectively for a moment in relation to other respected professions.  If the assessment of working professionals such as doctors, lawyers, or researchers was measured each year by a single standardized assessment of one patient out of a thousand cases treated, or one trial out of 20 litigated, or one experiment out of 100 performed in a year, would you say that this is an accurate and modern way to perform standardized assessment?  In sports, is one game the measure of a seasons’ worth of hard work and sacrifice?  The notion in this context is absurd, but over the last XX years (how many?), this has been deemed “the best way” to measure a teacher’s effectiveness.  It’s time we do much better than that.  It’s time that we leverage research like that of the Gates Foundation and modernize how we can comprehensively and equivalently measure a teachers’ impact on their classrooms and students.  And if I’m a passionate teacher at any level, I’m saying “finally” and “thank you” for empowering me with the ability to more accurately measure my impact across different axis, and find more specific areas in which I can elevate my impact and performance in the classroom to greater heights.  Greatness is not found in the measurement of a single test, but more accurately in the journey of preparing to be tested  – in class, and with inspired education, throughout life.

America is faced with perhaps the most important economic transformation in history.  Globalization and technology are combining to re-engineer a new era of employment opportunities that require both specialized experience along with the ability to flexibly adapt and, yes, LEARN over time. Teacher effectiveness and student achievement are like a strong marriage that needs to be nurtured and cultivated over time.  We seemed to have left teacher assessment at the alter.

This is exactly why it is so important that today’s student achievement comes from within—and is taught by the best teachers who are passionate about their craft and inspire students to always achieve through continuing education – whether at work, by reading a book, preparing for a job certification or license – and most importantly – by mentoring others along the way.  That’s why Silverback Learning started from leaders with a combined 100+ years of practitioner experience in the field.  That’s how we get our name – Silverback as it references those leaders in the group, those that have the most to share on how to help students learn, should be supported by technology and policies that allow them to share that with the rest of the “Troop.”  Silverback Learning will soon be introducing a new technology to empower and promote teacher effectiveness and body of experience.  We can’t let it out of the bag just yet, but stay tuned for more information in the June timeframe.  We guarantee, help is finally on the way…

In closing, what are the criteria that you feel teachers wish to be measured by?  And how should composite assessment impact and measure their value?


Dr. Jim Lewis


Silverback Learning


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Posted: January 24th, 2013