Report: Review of “The Widget Effect: Our National Failure to Acknowledge and Act on Teacher Differences."





DISTRICT:inquiry on equity in schooling


Raymond L. Pecheone, Ruth Chung Wei


2009, 9/18/2009


Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit


The Widget Effect: Our National Failure to Acknowledge and Act on Teacher Differences, published in June 2009 by the New Teacher Project, examines how 12 school districts
across four states use teacher evaluation to make human resources decisions. It then proposes how to build teacher evaluation systems that are more credible and useful. Overall, the report portrays current practices in teacher evaluation as a broken system perpetuated by a culture that refuses to recognize and deal with incompetence and that fails to reward excellence. However, omissions in the report’s description of its methodology (e.g., sampling strategy, survey response rates) and its sample lead to questions about the generalizability of the report’s findings. In addition, while the rationale for the report’s policy recommendations is sound, the proposals are restricted to the findings from the study and fail to consider or to draw upon any promising teacher evaluation strategies in current use. Transforming the system rather than tinkering around the edges will require broader thinking and a commitment to provide much greater investment and support for innovation to build, test, and audit evaluation systems that can stand up to public scrutiny and be practically feasible.


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