Teachers ask for value-added data

According to LA Times reporters, many Los Angeles teachers are eager to get value-added feedback on their work, reports GOOD, which was part of a conference call with investigative reporter Jason Felch and Beth Shuster, the Times’ K-12 education editor.

A special education teacher, who wasn’t rated because she didn’t teach enough students, asked the Times to assess her and other special ed instructors, Shuster said.

When we opened up the database for teacher comments, before it went live on the website, we had a number of teachers who wrote into us requesting their private page—where they could see what their ratings are. And even before they got that information, they were asking us, “What more can you give us? Are you just going to give us this one number? Are you going to give us math and English broken out? How much more can you give me? I’m planning for the upcoming school year.” I mean, these people are asking a newspaper for this information. It just strikes me that these people are victims of the system. The district has not done anything to help these people. they’ve never gone in and helped these people in anyway, the good ones or the bad ones.

Principals at high-achieving schools were less likely to know which teachers were raising or lowering students’ test scores, Felch said.

. . .  they’ve been under no pressure to improve, and the principals are not very focused on teacher quality. Because the kids come in at a very high level and score very high on achievement tests, they’re kind of resting on their laurels. … It was at those schools where we found a real disconnect between what the principal’s point of view was and what the data was telling us.

Parents need more than “parking lot chatter” to tell which teachers are helping students the most, Shuster said. If that causes chaos, with parents demanding their child get the highest scoring teachers, “That’s kind of a marketplace at work, isn’t it?” asks Shuster.

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  1. CarolineSF says:

    Well, this is interesting, because the Times didn’t do the number-crunching — a moonlighting RAND researcher did. Assessing teachers is beyond the scope of journalists’ job description or the skills comprised therein.

    “A special education teacher, who wasn’t rated because she didn’t teach enough students, asked the Times to assess her and other special ed instructors, Shuster said.”

    Frankly, the fact that the Times editor seems to be representing that the Times itself did the analysis is starting to look like delusions of grandeur. Maybe she’d like to take over running a troubled school? It’s like Hugh Laurie showing up to diagnose your mysterious symptoms.

    Meanwhile, there’s a big difference between providing this information to the teachers themselves and publishing it in a major daily newspaper with the names and big pictures of the shamed teachers. Somewhere in between is making the info available to parents. I’m not necessarily against that, though it be emblazoned with a series of disclaimers when it’s provided, such as the fact that students aren’t randomly assigned to classrooms, and a full understanding of the link between socioeconomics and academic achievement.

  2. My school has students take computerized tests in the fall and again in the spring. The teachers are then assessed on whether their students made more or less than a year’s progress. I have found this information very useful. The first year my class made huge gains (the highest gains in the school) for reading, but was downright embarrassing in other subjects. Armed with this information, I went to work on my weak spots and improved in every tested subject but math by the second year. Once again I used the information that I had gathered to improve my math instruction, and now my class makes solid gains in all tested subjects. If I had been subject to public humiliation because I was not stellar in all subjects from the first, it would have undercut my confidence and made it more difficult to improve.

    The way that my school does value added is more fair and effective than what the Times did. The computer program is responsive to the student’s answers and provides easier or more difficult questions accordingly. This helps to overcome the problem of high achieving students who might top out on a regular test. Also, because the test is given in the fall and again in the spring summer loss is not an issue. Most importantly, the teachers are assessed on whether their students met or exceeded the goal of a full year’s growth rather than being ranked against each other in a percentile system.