Friday, September 3, 2010

LA Times Value Added Editorial

The Los Angeles Times editorial page gets it mostly right today on the value-added issue ("Good teachers, good students," September 3, 2010). It says a number of smart things that I agree with, such as:
  • "Test scores are indeed just one indicator of a teacher's performance."
  • "But it's revealing, and disturbing, to read the comments of some teachers who don't seem to care whether their students' scores slide. They argue that they're focused on more important things than the tests measure. That's unpersuasive."
  • "This page has never believed that test scores should count for all of a teacher's evaluation — or even be the most important factor. But they should be a part of it."
  • "Right now, the "value-added" scores The Times has been reporting are more useful for evaluating schools than teachers. Many factors can throw off the data at the classroom level."
  • "That's why we think the Obama administration has been too hasty to push states into linking test scores to teacher evaluations and to reward states that overemphasize the scores, making them count for half or more of a teacher's worth. The administration's first priorities should have been developing better tests, which it's working on now — if we're going to judge teachers in part by these scores, it's unacceptable to say that top-notch tests are too expensive — and statistical models that minimize random factors and make the scores a better evaluation tool."
  • "Current teacher evaluation practices are ripe for overhaul. Performance reviews should include, at minimum, classroom observations, portfolios of student work over the academic year and, yes, objective test data."
I just wish its news division had taken some of these points to heart, namely having patience until the methodology was ready to be joined by other measures of teacher effectiveness, such as classroom observations, and not publishing the value-added scores of individual teachers and definitively labeling some as most effective and least effective.

Heather Horn of The Atlantic magazine offers a nice summary of some of the related issues and links to relevant sources in this September 1, 2010 blog post.

And Dana Goldstein offers a smart retort (and a preview of her upcoming The Nation feature on value added?) to a vacuous and vitriolic Slate post by Jack Shafer on this topic.

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