Schoolwork Too Easy? Or Teacher Effectiveness too Varied?

Schoolwork Too Easy? Or Teacher Effectiveness too Varied?

I was recently reading Erik Robelen’s Ed Week blog – Many Students Find Schoolwork ‘Too Easy’ – and it got me thinking about using data from student surveys to make decisions.

Student survey data has recently received more attention. One big driver of this focus on student surveys is the Gates Foundation funded project on measuring teacher quality, Measures of Effective Teaching. For the Gates researchers student survey data is the third leg of a three-legged stool — along with test data and formal teacher evaluations — that serves as the basis for making judgments about teacher effectiveness. Although there are many obvious caveats, in this type of fine grained usage student surveys ultimately may prove effective. However, broad based surveys like the NAEP survey cited in the Ed Week blog, though interesting, are probably less useful. The NAEP survey data confirm what is already well-known, and I believe offer nothing new. A look back at historical NAEP data would most likely confirm that student perceptions about the difficulty of their schoolwork have remained unchanged over time.

This NAEP survey may mask as much as it reveals. Many teachers do not assign enough writing and reading, yet many teachers do. As Dylan Wiliam often observes, there is more variation within schools in terms of teacher effectiveness than between schools. The real work to be done will be focused within schools rather than on aggregated data that paint all teachers with the same brush.

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