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Vanderbilt study suggest bias in Tennessee teacher classroom observations


(Mike Osborne) — A disturbing new education study by Vanderbilt University suggests strong bias against Tennessee’s male and black schoolteachers.

The research was conducted by the Tennessee Education Research Alliance. The group is a partnership between Vanderbilt, the State Department of Education and several education advocacy organizations.

The new study shows that Black and male teachers in Tennessee “consistently receive lower classroom observation scores than their White and female peers.”

Study leaders say possible causes include 'racial isolation of Black teachers, the differing characteristics of students who are assigned to Black and White teachers, and the race
of the teacher’s observer."

Study leaders concluded their reports with next step suggestions for state and local education leaders. They include:

  • Ensure that the training observers receive to certify them to conduct classroom observations emphasize close application of the observation rubric.
  • Audit approved observation rubrics to ensure that they reflect expectations for high quality instructional practice for all teachers
  • Encourage school leaders to examine data on student placement in their schools each year to guard against systematic assignment of low-achieving students, students with a past history of disciplinary infractions, and so forth to Black teachers.
  • Ensure that school leaders receive regular training on potential sources of bias in teacher evaluation.
  • Regularly monitor observation scores assigned to White teachers and teachers of color to ensure that the observation process is being administered equitably.
  • Consider observation scores as but one piece of evidence in making personnel decisions that affect teacher placement, retention, and compensation decisions.