Professor Thomas Kane
Walter H. Gale Professor of Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Effective teaching, Elementary and secondary education policy, Financial aid for college, The role of philanthropy in educational innovation
Shaping the future of education policy
“Given the number of national governments describing education as their ‘most important domestic policy challenge,’ it is striking that there are so few international efforts to stimulate and support innovation in education. Perhaps that is one reason for the slow pace of progress many nations have seen! The Yidan Council could draw up a blueprint for future efforts to pilot and test educational innovation internationally.”
— Professor Thomas Kane
Professor Thomas Kane is an economist and Walter H. Gale Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is founder and faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Research, a university-wide research center that works with school districts and state agencies on pressing education policy issues.
His research has influenced policymaking on a number of education policy topics, including the design of school accountability systems, charter schools, teacher evaluation, financial aid for college, college admissions, remediation and labor market outcomes for post secondary students.
Between 2009 and 2013, he directed the Measures of Effective Teaching project for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Involving 3000 teachers in multiple cities, the project has inspired policy reforms and research in the U.S. and internationally. From 1995 to 1996, he served as the senior economist for labor, education, and welfare policy issues within President William Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers. From 1991 through 2000, he was a faculty member at the Kennedy School of Government. Kane has also been a professor of public policy at UCLA and has held visiting fellowships at the Brookings Institution and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
Involving practitioners at the root of research
Professor Kane is committed to helping governments test their ideas for improving education. As with pharmaceuticals, the way students learn is just too complex to anticipate every obstacle and unintended side effect. In any country, the pace of progress will be driven by its ability to identify the small subset of reform ideas that actually work as the experts hope.
Between 2009 and 2013, Professor Kane directed the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. For decades, research has shown that some teachers are more effective than others. The problem has always been identifying the teaching practices that the most effective teachers are using. By collecting video in 3000 teachers’ classrooms, the project sought to build a bridge between the research on teachers’ impacts and hypotheses about effective teaching practices, such as how teachers ask questions in class, how teachers manage behavior, etc.
The MET project has laid the foundation for an empirically grounded, common vocabulary for effective teaching practice. The findings have inspired reforms to the way teachers are developed and rewarded in the United States, as well as in many other countries, such as Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Jordan. Video is increasingly used as a tool for providing feedback to teachers, who benefit from watching their students’ reactions to their own teaching.
Inspired by the MET project, the OECD has launched an effort to collect video on teaching practices within and across countries and to link those practices to achievement gains in different classrooms.
Professor Kane’s work continues to influence policy-making across a wide range of topics, including the design of school accountability systems, charter schools, teacher evaluation, financial aid for college, college admissions, remediation and community colleges.