K-12 Education

Evaluation Challenges / Twitter Organizing / Teacher Effectiveness

March 2, 2012

Evaluating Talk
Two weeks ago, we featured the Huffington Post piece of an Aspen Institute colleague arguing for the value of talk. Coincidentally, The New Yorker recently asked: so, what really happens at the World Economic Forum? Nick Paumgarten answers by describing multiple informal chance encounters. For us, this highlights the enormous challenge of evaluating talk—be it conference, discussion, dialogue, debate, or off-the-record symposium. We often say, we don’t know what we don’t know; and as Paumgarten shows, much of what happens is indeed off-the-record, and possibly off our radar.

Community Organizing via Twitter
The political advocacy mavens at e.politics discuss the common practice among campaign staff of using private Twitter feeds for volunteer organizing. As we’ve seen with the Arab Spring, social media has the potential to facilitate the massive mobilization of people. But while it’s thrilling to read about such large-scale change, we should remember that Twitter and Facebook may also work in more local contexts and benefit community advocates aiming to engage their neighbors.

Teaching Effectiveness Under the Microscope
With the release of effectiveness ratings covering some 12,700 teachers in New York City, the education debate around the country has turned yet again to the difficulty of measuring teacher quality. So far, the response among NYC parents has been mixed. Some parents told The New York Times that they don’t rely on data to tell them if their children’s teacher is good; they just know after meeting the teacher. Evaluators know that even though hard data is crucial, sometimes the intangibles are what counts.