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Classroom Observations Biased Against Male, Black Teachers, Research Suggests

Significant bias has contributed to lower classroom observation scores for thousands of teachers in Tennessee over the last decade, a study published in late December found. Even when controlling for differences in professional qualification and student testing performance, male and African American teachers were rated lower than their female and white colleagues.

The paper is one of the first thorough examinations of classroom observation — the common method of using an evaluator, such as a school principal, to watch and rate a teacher’s work with pupils — across an entire state. Its findings may cast doubt on the efficacy and fairness of the practice not only in Tennessee, but also the huge number of states that also place the in-person reviews at the heart of their federally mandated teacher evaluation systems.

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