What's The Disconnect Between Teacher Evaluations, School Performance?

Published: Wednesday, July 19, 2017 - 2:35pm
Updated: Wednesday, July 19, 2017 - 2:43pm

Have you heard of “The Widget Effect?” It’s the idea that people are interchangeable. Don’t like the results one worker is getting you? Replace them with another — and you’ll get the result you want.

Sounds about right, doesn’t it? Except it doesn’t seem to work — at least not when it comes to the classroom.

This idea was the basis for a study, also called The Widget Effect, which found that “less than 1 percent of teachers received an unsatisfactory rating” in their evaluations. Meaning, basically, that all teachers are either good or great.

On top of that, the study found that half of the districts studied had not dismissed one teacher for poor performance in the last five years. 

So I spoke with the researcher behind a new study called “Revisiting the Widget Effect:” Matthew Kraft with Brown University.

He went back and looked at the original data and re-asked some questions. This time, he found evaluators think more than three times as many teachers in their schools should be rated much lower than they are. And, eight years later, teacher evaluations have yet to prove they are actually improving the distribution of quality in the teacher workforce.

And it seems like we can see this right here in our own state. Arizona is rated the fifth-highest for how tough our teacher evaluations are, yet we land 44th in the nation for overall school performance.

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