Grading Teachers Jumps To Prime Time
Whether public school teachers like it or not, the “value added” method of grading them is becoming a reality. This system calculates the value teachers add to or subtract from their students’ achievement, based on changes in standardized test scores from year to year.
Value-added systems have been in place nationwide for a while; school districts around the country, including Washington D.C., Chicago and New York are already using this model to evaluate schools and teachers. And several states, in their desire to win money from the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition, have committed to using value-added analysis for teacher evaluation.
Los Angeles Times Rates Teachers From Best To Worst
But as Ann Bibby wrote here in August, a major explosion on this issue happened last month when the Los Angeles Times revealed that it had obtained math and English scores of the city’s third through fifth graders over the past seven years. An education economist then used value-added analysis to see how much progress students had made from year to year, under different teachers. Instructors were rated from best to worst. Not surprisingly, there were enormous variations, with the students of some of the 6,000 teachers making great leaps forward, while under other teachers, students fell way behind.
Now the education world is in an uproar, but as Beth Shuster, K-12 education editor at the Times, has pointed out, all the data provided by her paper is public information. There has been no breach of confidentiality here. However, many crucial questions need to be answered.
Why Use Only Standardized Tests?
As a teacher, I use multiple measures in my classroom every day to assess my students. So why is so much emphasis being placed on standardized tests? For one thing, students take these tests just once a year. Further, standardized tests are only one measure of a teacher, and there are many others. And that’s not even dealing with all the problems surrounding standardized tests, such how good they are, whether kids are good test-takers, and the reality that teachers must deal with whoever is put in their classes. And of course standardized tests are incapable of evaluating so much that is important in education, such as creative thinking and social skills.
How To Interpret The Results?
While all the data used may be publicly available, the interpretation of that data can vary widely: two people can take the same data, and come up with very diverse conclusions. And Ross Wiener, of the Aspen Institute, notes that scores can (and do) bounce around from year to year for any one teacher. So one single year of scores can be misleading. Limitations also exist to the value-added model itself, including the fact that it has many different versions.
How To Use The Information?
In spite of its shortcomings, if the value-added method is used to help educators improve their teaching, that could be helpful. On the other hand, questions arise around using this method for merit pay, as a factor in who gets bonuses, and for the firing of teachers. At a school in Southern California where I taught a few years ago, many of the students were already earning top points on their standardized tests. How were they supposed to improve on those excellent scores?
Education Secretary Arne Duncan initially supported the work of the Los Angeles Times, but in a speech last week he sounded a note of caution: he stated that in spite of his overall approval, he had never released to news media similar information on teachers when he was the Chicago schools superintendent.
Evaluating teachers more effectively is important, but let’s keep in mind that there is much more to teaching than training students to fill in the bubbles.
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