About 'Grading the Teachers'

August 15, 2010

This is the first in a series of articles exploring the effectiveness of public schools and individual teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Sunday's article is based on a statistical analysis of California Standards Test scores for Los Angeles elementary school students.

The Times hired Richard Buddin, a senior economist and education researcher at Rand Corp., to conduct a "value-added" analysis of the data.

Students take the California Standards Tests in math and English every year beginning in second grade. The Times obtained scores for the academic years 2002-03 through 2008-09 from LAUSD under the California Public Records Act. Included were 1.5 million scores from 603,500 students. Students' names were not included, but their teachers' names were.

Buddin calculated value-added scores for more than 6,000 elementary school teachers in terms of standard deviations from the average. For a technical explanation of his analysis, go to http://www.latimes.com/teachermethod.

» Teacher ResponseIf you have taught third through fifth grades in the Los Angeles Unified School District, you may be in our database, and we invite you to comment on your value-added score. To get started, please type your first and last names in the box below.

For clarity, we converted the scores to percentile rankings and divided them into five equal categories, from "least effective" to "most effective." Later this month, The Times will post this data on its website. Readers will be able to look up individual teachers and schools and see their value-added ratings.

Value-added ratings reflect a teacher's effectiveness at raising standardized test scores. As such, they capture only one aspect of a teacher's work, and, like any statistical analysis, they are subject to inherent error.

Only elementary school teachers who taught a total of at least 60 students in the seven-year period were included — a step that minimizes, but does not eliminate, the effect of random fluctuations.

Buddin worked for The Times as an independent contractor; Rand was not involved in his analysis. A $15,000 grant from the Hechinger Report, an independent nonprofit education news organization at Teachers College, Columbia University, helped fund the work. The institute did not participate in the analysis.

» DiscussDo you think the value-added approach should be used to evaluate teachers? Why or why not?

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