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Eric M. Camburn, (608) 263-3697,
Dan Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

Gates Report on Student Surveys Oversells Strengths, Ignores Weaknesses

EAST LANSING, Mich. (November 15, 2012) –A recent report from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Project presents advice on administering and using information from student surveys to evaluate teachers and provide feedback to teachers. A new review, however, finds that the report doesn't provide sufficient justification for many of its conclusions.

Professor Eric M. Camburn of the University of Wisconsin-Madison reviewed Asking Students about Teaching for the Think Twice think tank review project. The review is published by the National Education Policy Center with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Asking Students about Teaching seeks to establish that student surveys provide valid evidence usable to evaluate teachers. The report then offers guidance about optimal practices for using and acting on such surveys.

Camburn agrees that student surveys are potentially useful and that the report "contains many practical pieces of advice that are sensible and worth putting into practice." However, he cautions that the report's claims of a strong relationship between student survey results and teacher effectiveness are not supported by evidence in the report itself.

He further warns that a "broader limitation of the report is that many of the findings and conclusions are presented too uncritically and without sufficient justification."

"Developers of the MET project embrace the idea that multiple measures of teaching effectiveness are needed to represent such a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon. However, in discussing the potential uses of student surveys, this report's stance is lopsided, placing too much weight on the strengths of student surveys and not enough weight on their weaknesses."

In short, student surveys can potentially provide useful information, but the report's policy recommendations far outpace the available evidence.

Find Eric Camburn's review on the GLC website:

Find Asking Students about Teaching on the web:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policy makers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review is also available on the National Education Policy Center website at:


The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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