Today, The New York Times is running two articles on videotaping teachers for evaluation purposes. They are:

Teacher Ratings Get New Look, Pushed by a Rich Watcher

Video Eye Aimed at Teachers in 7 School Systems

They both talk about a Gates Foundation-funding effort to videotape teacher lessons and then have them evaluated by people who have never visited the school nor have any kind of relationship with the teacher, and rate them using checklists.

Here’s a criticism voiced in the article that I agree with wholeheartedly:

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which has several affiliates participating in the research, also expressed reservations. “Videotaped observations have their role but shouldn’t be used to substitute for in-person observations to evaluate teachers,” Ms. Weingarten said. “It would be hard to justify ratings by outsiders watching videotapes at a remote location who never visited the classroom and couldn’t see for themselves a teacher’s interaction and relationship with students.”

I’d call this a wrong way to use videotape of teachers.

I’ve previously written about what I think  is a right way to use videotaped teachers (Now, This Is What A Useful & Effective Teacher Assessment Might Look Like).

Our school, led by principal Ted Appel, has begun having Kelly Young, an extraordinarily talented consultant on instructional strategies who we have been working with for years, videotape our lessons (I’ve written much about Kelly in this blog). He then meets with us to review an edited version of the tape, with us initially giving our own critique and reflections followed by his comments. This process is entirely outside of the official evaluation process, and is focused on helping teachers improve their craft.

This process has been universally acclaimed by teachers so far, and it has been one of the most significant professional development experiences I’ve had.

As I mentioned in that previous post on my videotaped lesson, I had suggested to Kelly that we show the video and discuss the critique with my class as an experiment.

We did this a few days ago, and it was truly an amazing one hour.

I’ve written an article for Teacher Magazine about what happened, and they’ll be publishing it after the holidays. After reading it, I think you’ll agree that there are far better ways to use videotaped lessons than what the Gates Foundation is planning.