The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced today that it will invest a total of $335 million into teacher effectiveness initiatives. The vast majority of those funds, $290 million, are headed to three school districts — Pittsburgh, Memphis and Hillsborough County, Florida — and a consortium of Los Angeles charter school operators.
Foundation officials said the programs it is supporting are making strides in figuring out how to measure high-quality teaching and then encourage it. Even though none of the money is going to New York, observers here might be interested in some of the initiatives the grants are funding. In Hillsborough County, for example, the grant is going to help overhaul the teacher tenure process, linking tenure decisions to teachers’ demonstrated effect on boosting student achievement. New York has a law explicitly banning the use of student data in tenure decisions, though the law is set to expire next year and many predict it won’t be renewed.
The second part of the announcement today concerned the Measures of Effective Teaching study, an initiative we’ve known about in New York since September. The city’s Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers have already recruited teachers at nearly 100 schools into the study, which will examine how a variety of different classroom-based measures can be used to evaluate how teachers influence student achievement. The city is receiving a $2.6 million grant for the study and is one of six school districts currently signed up to participate. Nationally, the Gates Foundation is putting $45 million into the research project.