Duncan backs release of teacher data

In response to the Los Angeles Times story naming effective and ineffective teachers (based on value-added analysis), Education Secretary Arne Duncan said parents have a right to know how well their teachers are doing at raising students’ test scores.

“What’s there to hide?” Duncan said in an interview. “In education, we’ve been scared to talk about success.” And failure.

After years of ignoring the data, LA will be forced to do something about chronically ineffective teachers, writes Jay P. Greene.

No one is suggesting that analyses of these test scores should be the sole criteria for identifying or removing ineffective teachers.  But it is a start.

This is going to spread.  As long as the data exist, there will be more and more pressure for school systems to actually use the information and develop systems for identifying and removing teachers who can’t teach.

Flypaper questions naming teachers, but adds that the story “makes teachers, even the struggling ones, look better and the district and union look worse.”

The district and union have acted shamefully by not only hiding performance data from the public but hiding them from individual teachers themselves — teachers who, it appears, want to see them and want to learn from them.

Teachers should be protected from public reprimands, writes John Thompson on This Week in Education. Duncan’s endorsement of the story lacked “common decency,” he adds.

I’ve added more reaction to the Times’ story to my original post.

United Teachers of Los Angeles, the union, is “really, REALLY peeved” by the “potentially explosive” story, writes Stephen Sawchuk at Teacher Beat. There’s talk the union will ask teachers to boycott the LA Times. But now that people know the data is available, they’re going to want to use it, he predicts.

Rick Hess thinks value-added analysis isn’t completely ready for prime time and says the Times should not have used teachers’ names. I have to say naming the teachers made me uncomfortable.

Dan Willingham also thinks value-added analysis is not good enough to use for evaluating individual teachers, though his example doesn’t make sense to me. He adds that a consensus has emerged that something has to be done about incompetent teachers. Most districts don’t have “a mechanism by which to ensure that incompetent teachers are not teaching.”

I have said before that if teachers didn’t take on the job of evaluating teachers themselves, someone else would do the job for them.

. . . This is the time for the teacher’s unions to make teacher evaluation their top priority. If they don’t, others will.

I don’t believe the teachers’ unions can take on this challenge, though they’d be wise to try.

About Joanne


  1. The LAUSD will be forced “to do something.” It will create clerical jobs answering complaints from parents. But how will this disgrace make teaching a more attractive career? How will it lead to more balanced, mature decision-making?

  2. One more in a long line of examples of how inept Duncan is. Did this guy ever teach a day of his life?

    I’ve been a classroom teacher for 18 years. Test scores go up one year and down the next. I am the constant, not the variable.

    Do I try to get better each year? Yes. Am I responsible for horrible scores? Not likely

    Am I responsible for good scores? Not entirely.

    Achievement tests are so ill-conceived and so poorly constructed that it’s nearly impossible to judge teachers on the outcome. When I have a group of intrinisically motivated kids, who will work hard in school simply because it’s how they’ve been raised, they score well.

    When I have a group that is largely unmotivated and has a history of poor performance, guess what, they perform poorly. There’s absolutely no reward for kids who are not intrinsically motivated to do well on the test.

    I say we start calling out Duncan and asking him to show one single thing he’s done to improve education in America, since being named ed secretary.

    Singling out “bad” teachers, merit pay, less funding for technology. . . . The list goes on and on.

    Thanks for the post and for giving me this space to rant.

  3. Yes, let’s hold Duncan *accountable*! Which of his initiatives have improved test scores?

  4. Jay Greene’s an optimist. LAUSD won’t do a thing because nothing has changed to warrant a change. Sure there’s a higher visibility for lousy teachers which means there’s just one more thing for the people who run LAUSD to ignore. It’d be better if lousy teachers weren’t identified but where’s the factor that’ll make getting rid of them worth the inevitable pain?

    A few especially egregious cases will result in some symbolic sacrifices but in the main teaching competence will remain unrewarded and teaching incompetence unpunished.

  5. Homeschooling Granny says:

    How did all these incompetent teachers (if that is, in fact, what they are) get through for years in a college of education? How did they get certified? What does a degree from a college of education really mean?

    How about every ed school running labs schools; every freshman working as an aide, observing a master teacher; every ed professor applying the theories in the classroom; candidates unlikely to be effective teachers recognized and counseled out before investing four years training for a career they are not fit for. There are many ways that ed schools could see that their graduates are prepared to teach when they step into a classroom .

  6. “How about every ed school running labs schools; every freshman working as an aide, observing a master teacher; every ed professor applying the theories in the classroom”….unlikely to happen. The whole nature of modern higher education is to devalue actual experience-based knowledge in favor of theory-based knowlege..and, outside the hard sciences, “theory-based” really usually means “assertion-based.”

  7. Richard Aubrey says:

    Teachers evaluate each other pretty savagely. That’s how they know which teachers their kids should seek and which to avoid.
    If you’re not plugged in, your kids take their chances.

  8. CarolineSF says:

    The “new media” project California Watch has posted a thoughtful response (by its education editor Louis Freedberg, a veteran journalist and former San Francisco Chronicle editorial writer) to the Times assault. The Times is firing back at Freedberg in the comments section. It’s war!



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by kriley19, Joanne Jacobs. Joanne Jacobs said: New blog post: Duncan backs release of teacher data http://www.joannejacobs.com/2010/08/duncan-backs-release-of-teacher-data/ […]

  2. […] Duncan backs release of teacher data — Joanne Jacobs […]