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By Katy Murphy
Sunday, August 15th, 2010
Los Angeles Unified didn’t use its wealth of student test score data to try to evaluate the effectiveness of its teachers, but the L.A. Times did.
The newspaper collected seven years worth of California Standards Test data for more than 600,000 students in grades 3 through 5. Using a method called “value added,” which is designed to estimate each student’s academic progress from one year to the next, the reporters rated 6,000 teachers in the system, from “least effective” to “most effective,” based on whether their students made more (or less) progress, on average, than others in their grade throughout the district.
Later this month, the paper plans to publish the database — with the teachers’ names and how they stack up, by this measure, against their colleagues. You can read more about the project here, and the first story in the series here.
The reporters — with the help of a consultant from RAND Corp., who conducted the statistical analysis — found that some teachers seemed to consistently raise their students’ scores higher than others. They also found that the highest-ranked teachers were scattered throughout the city, not concentrated in the wealthier areas; that the teacher matters more than the school; and that education, experience and training didn’t seem to have much to do with whether a teacher was able to bring up her students’ test scores.
The cover photo is of a teacher who fell in the bottom 10 percent of the rankings. A reporter visited his classroom and found a marked difference between his teaching style and student interest than that of a teacher next door, who scored highly on their analysis.
Granted, student progress on test scores can only tell you so much about a teacher. Is this sort of “value-added” analysis something school districts should do more of, if only to help people get better at what they do (and do you think it would)? How should such data be used? How would you use it, as a parent, a teacher or a principal? Do you agree with the Times’ decision to publish the names and ratings of each teacher?