What’s the value of value-added?

Who’s right about the value of value-added? A University of Colorado analysis challenges the validity of the Los Angeles Times’ value-added analysis of teachers’ effectiveness. The Colorado “critique is more cautionary than damning,” argues Rick Hess.

. . . this is a case where I think the results mostly highlight the import of moving carefully and thoughtfully on value-added. That said, the standard in crafting value-added systems ought not be perfection, because nobody anywhere in the private or public sector has got a system that can meet the standard. The question is whether a given system is better than the alternative. And the truth is that today’s personnel systems are so insensitive to performance, so protective of mediocrity, and so dismissive of excellence, that value-added systems need not be flawless to be good and useful tools.

Washington D.C.’s teacher evaluation data will be used to assess principals, teaching coaches and education schools, reports the Washington Post.

Now in its second year, IMPACT uses five classroom observations to rate how effective a teacher is in nine standards — including explaining content clearly and engaging students — deemed essential to good teaching. Certain teachers are also judged on whether their students’ test scores sufficiently improve — a metric known as “value-added.” All of the numbers are crunched into a teacher’s annual rating, ranging from ineffective to highly effective.

Last year, former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle A. Rhee fired 75 teachers with poor IMPACT evaluations and gave bonuses to more than 600 top scorers.

In the future, D.C. will use the data to determine which education schools are producing high- or low-scoring teachers, said Jason Kamras, the district’s personnel chief.  “We’ll just stop taking graduates from institutions that aren’t producing effective teachers.”

Just as teachers are being held accountable for students’ performance on tests, Kamras said, administrators will be held accountable for teachers’ performance on IMPACT evaluations. Teacher ratings from one cluster of schools might be compared with those from another cluster to assess how a particular instructional superintendent is faring. Principals will be judged in part by the number of “highly effective” teachers they are able to retain from year to year. Instructional coaches will be held accountable for the ratings of the teachers they coach.

IMPACT also will help the district target teacher training to areas of high need, Kamras said.

IMPACT is too flawed to be reliable, said Nathan Saunders, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union.  He worries that use of IMPACT scores will lead D.C. to stop hiring teachers from historically black colleges and universities.

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