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Evaluation is scary. I know that when I am being assessed by others, whether it’s a test, a performance or general feedback, I feel the weight of others’ judgment upon me. But Bill Gates’ theories of measurement are invaluable to society, because they make us see the value about what others have to say about our performance. Without reflection and help, advancement is impossible.

Paying attention to each situation can make a difference.

However, I think the most powerful evaluation comes not from grades or numbers, but from personalized feedback. By individualizing measurement, or allowing for a system that can assess individuals’ needs, true change can happen. For example, my best teachers were the ones who took time to write explanations of the grade they gave at the end of every assignment. My high school English teacher would look at my essays with a microscope (figuratively), observing every element in detail and then commenting upon it. That way, rather than giving me an A and writing “good job”, I knew where to progress and how to improve.

The same level of attention should be applied in the classroom, where teachers do receive evaluation, but not from people directly involved in the students’ education. While the Gates Foundation system is significant, I did not read anything about working with the teachers to help the students, rather than simply telling them how to improve. My mother taught elementary school for 20 years, and she received many an evaluation from “experts” who she then never say again. A carousel of these people would sit in her classroom for 20 minutes, fill out a form, and then leave. To make true progress in education, evaluators should be more involved in these teacher’s classrooms and truly get to know the situation and the context, rather than simply fill out a form. I know it’s more difficult, and tougher to accomplish, but it’s to only way to make honest, successful progress.

So, rather than always quantifying, I think that qualifying is equally important. Every person has a story and an individual situation. It’s like the concept discussed in “The Year of Living Dangerously.” Looking at those in front of you, instead of simply abstracting a problem to a “bigger picture” really can make a difference.

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