Parents have a right to see the data on teachers’ effectiveness, writes Katherine Mangu Ward in Reason. But information doesn’t do much good unless parents have a choice.
In every area except for public schooling and medicine, consumers can research information and make a choice, she writes. If parents could choose their children’s teachers, schools would have to use a lottery or a first-come, first-served system.
“As a parent, I think I have a right to know,” school board member Nury Martinez told the LA times. But the public shouldn’t be able to see a teacher’s entire review, Martinez said.
Giving parents all the information that’s available is a bad idea, the argument goes, in part because they might start trying to make the kind of choices for their kids that they make every day about their lunches, their jobs, or their dry cleaners.
Asked about the release of the Los Angeles teacher data, D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee said she’d looked at the data from her children’s school.
“I could see the teacher data. One good, one not so much. I pride myself on not giving my kids preferences. But as a mother i was like whoa! From an administrative point of view, it’s pretty terrifying.”
Dave Leonhardt, the New York Times’ economics columnist, wants to know which teachers (and which doctors and hospitals) are the most successful. But he worries parents will see teacher rankings as gospel truth.
The value-added data probably can identify the best and worst teachers, researchers say, but it may not be very reliable at distinguishing among teachers in the middle of the pack.
Leonhardt likes the suggestion of Ed Sector’s Rob Manwaring, who thinks districts should release value-added scores at every school without tying the individual scores to teachers’ names.
This would avoid humiliating teachers, he writes. It also would let the savvy parents guess which teacher to request. Of course, it’s impossible to think of a system that doesn’t favor savvy parents and their children.
“No system is perfect,” Leonhardt writes.
If principals and teachers are allowed to grade themselves, as they long have been, our schools are guaranteed to betray many students. If schools instead try to measure the work of teachers, some will inevitably be misjudged. “On whose behalf do you want to make the mistake — the kids or the teachers?” asks Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust. “We’ve always erred on behalf of the adults before.”
You may want to keep that in mind if you ever get a chance to look at a list of teachers and their value-added scores. Some teachers, no doubt, are being done a disservice. Then again, so were a whole lot of students.
Los Angeles Unified school board has told Superintendent Ramon Cortines to negotiate with the teachers’ union to include value-added measures as part of teacher evaluations.