If not value-added, then what?

“Would-be reformers for getting waaaay ahead of themselves” in building systems around value-added data, writes Rick Hess. But value-added can be a useful tool, even if it’s not perfect. And what’s the alternative to value-added? Principals observing teachers in the classroom? Value-added haters don’t like that either.

Only peer review — teachers evaluating teachers — has support from “self-styled teacher advocates,” Hess writes. And peer review rarely has teeth.

. . . few peer review efforts have lived up to their billing. For instance, as Steven Brill has reported, the lauded Toledo peer review program — which has been credited with aggressively weeding out bad teachers — turned out, when studied for The New Teacher Project’s “Widget Effect to have removed just one tenured teacher (in a fair-sized, low-performing system) during the two years studied.

“Public educators who are paid with public funds to serve the public’s children ought to be responsible for how well they do their jobs,” writes Hess.

Low-stakes value-added analysis can provide useful feedback to teachers, writes Matthew Di Carlo on the Shanker Institute (affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers) Blog. Teachers need disaggregated data, he adds.

For instance, if a teacher is told that her English language learners tend to make less rapid progress than her native speakers, this is potentially useful – she might rethink how she approaches those students and what additional supports they may need from the school system. Similarly, if there are strong gains among those students who started out at a lower level (i.e., their score the previous year) and stagnation for those starting out at a higher level, this suggests the need for more effective differentiation.

In a few states, teacher education programs are analyzing graduates’ value-added data to identify weak areas writes Stephen Sawchuk on Education Week.

“It was frustrating at first. Based on earlier assessments, we always had exemplary status, and then to get these data showing some weaknesses—well, it was a shock,” said Gerald M. Carlson, the dean of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “But we ultimately said, ‘Let’s roll up our sleeves and see what we can find out.’ ”

. . . the school set up teams of faculty to look at the curriculum, switched the sequencing of elementary math courses, and is now requiring faculty members to spend more time observing student-teachers, Mr. Carlson said.

Students taught by the university’s elementary teachers struggled with essay questions, the value-added analysis showed. “The university’s teacher-educators have worked with colleagues from the liberal arts department to require more writing instruction in introductory English composition courses.”


About Joanne


  1. I have no problem in being evaluated by my student’s test scores as long as it’s a value added model. The first year I received my value added scores, I noticed that while my students were making well over a year’s growth in reading, their growth in language and math was so-so, and their science scores were embarrassing. I winced at those low science scores, but I went to work and put everything I had into improving my weak areas. Now science instruction is one of my strengths. Value added scores could be very useful in helping teacher to improve. Unfortunately, too many administrators use them as a club to punish teachers, and this leads to defensiveness.

  2. > Unfortunately, too many administrators use them as a club to punish teachers, and this leads to defensiveness.

    If the people teachers report too aren’t also on the hook to produce measurable results then the system’s compromised before it’s initiated. Principals ought to have to demonstrate they can run good schools just as teachers ought to be on the hook to demonstrate they can run a good class. Right now neither one’s on the hook to demonstrate much of anything.

    • Kirk Parker says:


      Sure, principals should be on the hook, too–but NOT unless we also give them the managment tools they need. somebody on the previous post said principal ought to be treated like coaches. Well, then, will they have carte blanche to hire, fire, play, and bench their employees? Good luck getting that through.

      I do not mean to be defending administrators as automatically being competent, not at all–just that the entire system is rigged against true manageability and true accountability, not just the classroom. I remember hearing Eric Hanushek point out, well over a decade ago, that if you ask the typical principal what his/her school’s budget is, they either (a) won’t know, or (b) will think you’re asking about their principal’s office budget. Like I said, a setup for unmanagability.