ETS Researchers Contribute to Groundbreaking New Book on Measuring Effective Teaching
Over 900 raters scored 60,000 hours of video footage from classroom observations

Tom Ewing

Princeton, N.J. (August 5, 2014) —Research scientists from Educational Testing Service (ETS) co-authored six of the 16 chapters in a new book from the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Much of their work centered on developing systems for training raters to evaluate teacher performances in order to avoid subjectivity and favoritism. ETS trained over 900 raters who scored 60,000 hours of video footage of teachers teaching.

The new book, Designing Teacher Evaluation Systems: New Guidance from the Measures of Effective Teaching Project, is a result of one of the largest research efforts in the history of the United States to identify and understand effective teaching. The MET project, which was launched in 2010, and ran through 2011, studied the teaching of middle-school mathematics and English language arts and brought together several dozen academic researchers, about 3,000 teachers, seven school districts, and over 20 education organizations and universities.

“This study is important and one that will positively impact education and teaching because measuring teaching quality is a critical first step toward improving the quality of education for all children,” says Courtney A. Bell, a senior research scientist in ETS's Understanding Teaching Quality research center and one of the contributors to the volume.

ETS researchers worked on studies that aimed to identify and assess the unique types of content knowledge required for effective teaching. In-depth interviews with teachers provided evidence that the MET assessment went beyond simply measuring basic content competency.

ETS developed systems for training raters to evaluate teacher performances. Teacher observations have traditionally been performed by watching teachers in class, a method that has been criticized for allowing subjectivity and favoritism. An alternative approach is to videotape teachers in their classrooms and then rate their performance according to guidelines that seek to produce fair and reliable judgments.

In addition to contributing to the book, ETS researchers wrote several reports, policy briefs and white papers that can be found at the MET project's website.

The new book was edited by Thomas J. Kane, professor of education and economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; Kerri A. Kerr, a consultant working with the Gates Foundation; and Robert C. Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia.

The 616-page volume includes 15 original studies, many of which took advantage of the extensive data generated by the teacher observation systems ETS helped build and execute. ETS researchers were co-authors of the following chapters:

  • Chapter 2: Grade-Level Variation in Observational Measures of Teacher Effectiveness
  • Chapter 3: Improving Observational Score Quality: Challenges in Observer Thinking
  • Chapter 12: Evaluating Efforts to Minimize Rater Bias in Scoring Classroom Observations
  • Chapter 13: Scoring Design Decisions: Reliability and the Length and Focus of Classroom Observations
  • Chapter 15: Evidence on the Validity of Content Knowledge for Teaching Assessments
  • Chapter 16: Optimizing Resources to Maximize Student Gains

“The MET project gave us a wonderful opportunity to develop and share our ideas about measuring teaching quality,” says Cindy Tocci, executive director in the R&D division. “ETS is a leader in research in this area and our participation allowed us to expand our capabilities so that we could develop new products, including an observation training and proficiency assessment system that ETS co-developed with Teachscape.”

“ETS continues to work on teaching effectiveness by both expanding development of assessments of content knowledge for teaching to new subjects and grade levels and by conducting research to better understand the benefits of using observation protocols to measure teaching quality,” says Ida Lawrence, Senior Vice President for Research at ETS. “The goal of the observation work is to collect evidence of the validity of procedures used in making observations and to disseminate relevant knowledge to policymakers and practitioners. Insights from these advances in measuring teacher knowledge and practice can then support states and districts in their efforts to develop fair and reliable teacher evaluation and licensure systems.”