The value-added debate

Can a few years’ data reveal bad teachers? The New York Times‘ Room for Debate takes on value-added analysis.

About Joanne


  1. I see education as a complex emergent system – one in which such a myriad of factors contribute to success or failure that it’s difficult to pinpoint what led to the “value” added or “lack thereof.” Some students achieve in spite of poor classroom and environment while others clearly achieve because of it. Thus, attempts to quantify in any statistical and consistent manner should be questioned, if not doubted.

    Then again, we all know good teaching when we see it, and we all can identify times when we “know” poor teaching leads to low achievment.

    • Try not to damage your spine as you contort yourself to avoid the obvious – teaching’s as measureable as learning the difference being that colleges have to apportion a quantity, slots in the entering class, for which the demand exceeds the supply. Hence, SATs, ACTs and the rest of the rogue’s gallery of testing vehicles.

      Combine those scores with attendance records and who was standing and blabbing during the classes and it shouldn’t be that big a chore to determine which teachers suck and which teachers shine. Of course the same idea could be extended, with appropriate adjustments, to principals and superintendants. In fact, without extending such a measurement system to administrators the idea is of dubious value.

      If the higher-ups don’t have a dog in the fight then their motivation is to arrange the results to their benefit. So, all in or the exercise is liable to counterproductive.

      • As I said, Allen, we know it when we see it. By extensive observation we can determine, in your words, which teachers “suck.” But the same can’t be said for snapshot data of single observations or single day tests in which the students may have no stake. If they choose to take the ACT and apply to college, it may be relevant. If they are mandated to take it by state, or asked to “volunteer” to take the NAEP or PISA test, knowing scores don’t affect their grades, then not so much.