The Widget Effect: Our National Failure to Acknowledge and Act on Differences in Teacher Effectiveness

Publication Date: June 2009

Publisher: The New Teacher Project

Author(s): Kelli Morgan; Susan Sexton; Daniel Weisberg; Joan Schunck; Jennifer Mulhern; David Keeling

Research Area: Education

Keywords: teacher abuse; education ; performance issues

Type: Report

Coverage: United States Colorado Illinois Ohio


This report by The New Teacher Project, a national nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that all students get excellent teachers, caps a two-year research project spanning four states—Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois and Ohio. It illustrates that teacher evaluation systems reflect and codify the “Widget Effect”—the tendency of school districts to treat teachers as essentially interchangeable—in several major ways.

It concludes there is pervasive indifference to teacher performance that is fundamentally disrespectful to teachers and gambles with the lives of students. It finds that excellent teaching goes unrecognized, hard working teachers who could improve are ignored, and poor performance goes unaddressed.

The report insists that states revisit their evaluation of educators - just as they have revisited assessments for students - to ensure great results. It finds that every teacher deserves to have an evaluation process that will strengthen their skills in the classroom.