Monday, January 29, 2007

Measure What Matters

Here is a basic premise: great teaching is one of the inputs that will lead to student learning. In fact, it is one of the only inputs educators have control over. Because of this we invest time and money into providing high quality professional development so that teachers will improve and student academic achievement will likewise improve. Districts focus on proven strategies, like
Marzano's classroom strategies that work.

Then, we assess the students and wait. Here are the possible outcomes:
1. Student achievement improves
2. Student achievement declines
3. Student achievement shows no discernible growth

If student achievement improves, we pat ourselves on the back and continue doing what we did before. If it declines we immediately try something new. If there is no discernible growth or loss we can either stick with what we already started or try something new.

The problem is that we never took the time to figure out if the changes we expected in the classroom ever occurred. That's right, we never measured what mattered...whether the teaching practice actually changed. I know people in education think that student achievement is an appropriate measure to determine the effectiveness of professional development, but it isn't. If the point of professional development is to change the input (teaching practice), then that is what needs to be measured.

The challenge that I am motivated to accept is to develop a method to rapidly, repeatedly, and continuously measure the quality of the input (teaching practice), so that my district can evaluate the change following professional development, pinpoint areas of concern, and differentiate professional development for our 1000 employees.

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