The Right - and Wrong - Role for Teachers: An Analysis of Gates' MET project

From The Washington Post
Blog: The Answer Sheet, Valerie Strauss
Monday, April 15, 2013

What makes an effective teacher? Here is a post on the issue from veteran educator Marion Brady, a classroom teacher for years who has written history and world culture textbooks (Prentice-Hall), professional books, numerous nationally distributed columns (many are available here), and courses of study. His 2011 book, "What's Worth Learning," asks and answer this question: What knowledge is absolutely essential for every learner? [see ] His course of study for secondary-level students, called Connections: Investigating Reality, is free for downloading here. Brady's website is

By Marion Brady

Bill Gates spent $45 million trying to find out what makes a school teacher effective. I've studied his Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project, and think it ignores a matter of fundamental importance.

Consider: What makes an effective lawyer, carpenter, baseball player, surgeon?

The answer is that it depends - depends on what they're being asked to do. An effective divorce lawyer isn't necessarily an effective criminal defense lawyer. A good framing carpenter isn't necessarily a good finish carpenter. A good baseball catcher isn't necessarily a good third baseman. A good heart surgeon isn't necessarily a good hip-replacement surgeon.

Put lawyers, carpenters, baseball players, and surgeons in wrong roles, test them, and a likely conclusion will be that they're not particularly effective. So it is with teachers. Put them in wrong roles, and they probably won't be particularly effective.

Gates' faith in test scores as indicators of effectiveness makes it clear that he buys the conventional wisdom that the teacher's role is to "deliver information." But what if the conventional wisdom is wrong?

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