Posted by: schooleducator | January 17, 2010

Race to the Top…of Google Searches and Site Visits

Race to the Top Funding ties monies to teacher performance based on student achievement.  It’s a good idea to have some benchmark for allocating federal dollars, but this one misses the mark of assessing teacher efficacy.  The better, more effective, and authentic metric is to try to gauge engagement, for that is the true measure of a a great teacher.  This can be tricky to quantify, but with tools like Google searches, blogs, wikis, Twitter feeds, etc, there may just be a way to “count” how much engagement is going on in schools.  What if, instead of tying teacher performance to student achievement, teacher performance was assessed based on the number of hits generated on a teacher’s blog, wiki, Twitter feed, or how high on a Google search their posted curriculum lands?

A few years ago, I heard of a college professor, who doled out grades based on the design of web sites by students in his class.  To earn an A, the site had to generate 10,000 hits, to earn a B, the site needed 7,500 hits, a C was worth 5,000 hits.  The key challenge he pushed on students was to generate engagement, and he graded students on the level of engagement they could cook.  Teachers need to be encouraged to do the same, and given the rapidity of the spread of free web-based digital tools, schools and policymakers should be laying down the gauntlet for federal monies based on how effectively and widely teachers can engage student audiences.  The classroom is no longer bound by 4 walls.  It’s limitless in scope and breadth, and learning needs to march into the 21st century.  The Obama administration prizes innovation.  Look at how Chris Hughes recalibrated presidential politics with a comprehensive web strategy that left the McCain folks scratching their heads.  There is an opportunity to accelerate change in schools, but it won’t happen with the tired, worn approaches that the Race to the Top is intent on recycling. Instead, Mr. Duncan and company need to step outside of conventional approaches to measure teacher effectiveness and energize our schools.

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