In which I read research articles with interesting contrasts

Since acronyms seem to be a part of any profession, we have the delight of two MET’s in math education. One is the Mathematical Education of Teachers, which just came out with their second version that I am working my way through. The other is the Measures of Effective Teaching project that the Gates Foundation has been putting on the past three years. Today is about the latter.

You can go and read the whole thing here. If you skip to page 20 you can read their “What We Know” conclusions from the 3 year study. I like a lot of what the report has to say about how to use classroom observation, rigorously training observers, taking a balanced approach, etc. I have a hard time with a standardized test being the end-all measurement and I don’t trust student surveys for an accurate portrayal of a teacher’s abilities.

Interestingly, right after finishing the Gates report I was given a link to this abstract from a paper issued in December of 2012 by C. Kirabo Jackson:

I present a model where students have cognitive and non-cognitive ability and a teacher’s effect on long-run outcomes is a combination of her effect on both ability types. Conditional on cognitive scores, an underlying noncognitive factor associated with student absences, suspensions, grades, and grade progression, is strongly correlated with long-run educational attainment, arrests, and earnings in survey data. In administrative data teachers have meaningful causal effects on both test-scores and this non-cognitive factor. Calculations indicate that teacher effects based on test scores alone fail to identify many excellent teachers, and may greatly understate the importance of teachers on adult outcomes.

I am interested in the idea of a teacher’s outcome on “non-cognitive ability”. How do you measure a teacher’s ability to help kids throw off the fear they all seem to exist in during adolescence as they work to figure out who they are and who they want to be? I don’t think a standardized test measures that well and there is something powerful about realizing you have the respect of an adult who is not your relative and who shows passion for life.


[UPDATE 01/17/2013]

Two new articles have come out that chime in about the statistics (or lack thereof) in the Gates Foundation article. Good reads. And if you teach stats they are rather applicable.

The 50 Million Dollar Lie, by Gary Rubinstein

Gates Foundation Wastes More Money Pushing VAM, by Gene V. Glass


One thought on “In which I read research articles with interesting contrasts

  1. Hi,

    I came across your blog via David Wees, and as a fellow mathematics educator I thought you might be able to help in spreading the word about an educational TV show for preteens about math that we’re putting together. “The Number Hunter” is a cross between Bill Nye The Science Guy and The Crocodile Hunter — bringing math to children in an innovative, adventurous way. I’d really appreciate your help in getting the word out about the project.

    I studied math education at Jacksonville University and the University of Florida. It became clear to me during my studies why we’re failing at teaching kids math. We’re teaching it all wrong! Bill Nye taught kids that science is FUN. He showed them the EXPLOSIONS first and then the kids went to school to learn WHY things exploded. Kids learn about dinosaurs and amoeba and weird ocean life to make them go “wow”. But what about math? You probably remember the dreaded worksheets. Ugh.

    I’m sure you know math is much more exciting than people think. Fractal Geometry was used to create “Star Wars” backdrops, binary code was invented in Africa, The Great Pyramids and The Mona Lisa, wouldn’t exist without geometry.
    Our concept is to create an exciting, web-based TV show that’s both fun and educational.

    If you could consider posting about the project on your blog, I’d very much appreciate it. Also, if you’d be interested in link exchanging (either on The Number Hunter site, which is in development, or on which is a well-established site with 300,000 page views a month) please shoot me an email. We’re also always looking for input and ideas from other math educators!

    Thanks in advance for your help,



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