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A Blog from New America's Early Education Initiative

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When Teachers are Watched: Upcoming Event Highlights the Power of Observation

Published:  January 19, 2012

Watched a teacher lately? Anyone? Anyone?

For most people, especially those who don't spend their days in schools, it's rare to see real teachers in action. Our perspective is colored instead by watching movies of actors pretending to be teachers -- especially bad teachers. Who in my generation doesn't have a vision of a teacher imprinted on their brain from watching Ferris Bueller's Day Off, or The Breakfast Club, or Fast Times at Ridgemont High?

What would happen if we could observe much more authentic interactions between teachers and students? Better yet, what if teachers were evaluated, at least in part, by results from observations by trained professionals and peers who knew what good teaching was supposed to look like?

In one week, the Early Education Initiative will delve into a red-hot area of debate in education circles: How should we identify good teaching – and how should state and federal policies help to reward and promote it? In our upcoming event, Watching Teachers Work: Using Data from Classroom Observations to Improve Teaching, we'll talk about how videos and in-person observations of teachers should be recognized as powerful tools for reforming America's teacher corps.

Although our group typically focuses on early learning settings (including kindergarten and the early grades), the event highlights innovative ideas that should be registering on the K-12 radar screen too. In short, it's no accident that our panel includes a high school teacher. The event will also include videotaped classroom moments, as well as voices from teachers across the education spectrum who have used data from observations to help them improve.

Details are below. Interest is high, and if early RSVP totals are any indication, we'll have a packed room, but please help us spread the word (tweet!) to people in education policy who focus on elementary, middle and high school, as well as those who work with young children. The event will be streamed live (you'll find it here) and an archived video recording will be made available too.

Watching Teachers Work: Using Data from Classroom Observations to Improve Teaching

Thursday, January 26 from 9 a.m. - 11 a.m.

At the New America Foundation

1899 L Street, NW, 4th Floor

Washington, DC  20036

RSVP here

How to identify good teachers — and how to help them improve — will be a hot topic in 2012, especially as states upgrade their teacher-evaluation systems. Join us for a panel discussion paired with video features, where we will delve into recommendations from New America’s latest paper on teacher effectiveness, Watching Teachers Work: Using Observation Tools to Promote Effective Teaching in the Early Years and Early Grades.

We’ll reflect on how our ideas on teacher observation jibe with the new Gates Foundation report on the subject, Gathering Feedback for Teaching, in addition to talking with educators from a range of settings – early years to high school – about how observation can be harnessed to improve public education through PreK-3rd reforms and across the PreK-12 spectrum.

Coffee and a light breakfast will be served at 9 a.m.

The policy paper and event are made possible by grants from the Foundation for Child Development, the W. Clement and Jessie V. Stone Foundation, and the A.L. Mailman Family Foundation.


Lisa Guernsey
Director, Early Education Initiative
New America Foundation

Susan Ochshorn
ECE Policy Works

Elena Silva
Senior Policy Analyst
Education Sector

Danielle Wilson
Bethel High School, Hampton, VA

Noreen Thompson
AppleTree Early Learning, Washington, DC


UPDATED on 1/20/12 with movie clips.

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