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Do you really know if your doctor -- or child's teacher -- is doing a good job?

In education and healthcare, job performance data are lacking – but that's changing.

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There are few things more important to society than educating children and providing healthcare to families. If either fails, the economic and social impact is devastating.

Yet do we know whether our doctors and teachers are doing a good job?

Persistent blind spots in these critical fields hurt all of us. Thankfully, efforts are under way across America to change this.

Healthcare reform bills passed by both the House and Senate (and now on hold) include nearly $100 million to develop healthcare performance measures. The Obama administration's Race to the Top education grants require that teacher evaluations be based on "multiple measures."

Performance measurement is not the stuff of campaign commercials. Yet in a down economy, there is growing interest in getting the most out of shrinking budgets, so a "measurement movement" may be in the making.

In teaching, there has been a remarkable absence of measurement. Evaluations are typically done by a principal or assistant principal who may not use defined measures. Instead, they often make judgments based on observations of teachers at work – a highly subjective process fraught with charges of unfairness.

Many experts agree that standardized tests fall short in evaluating teaching and learning; it's like looking through a keyhole to identify the totality of what students learn from their teachers. Recognizing these limitations, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation invested $45 million to develop "fair" and "reliable" measures of teacher effectiveness. Its two-year national enterprise is evaluating 3,700 teachers using an array of measures, including videos of teachers interacting with students, student surveys, examples of students' work, more tests given more often, and an assessment of a teacher's ability to know when a student just isn't "getting it."


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