On Sunday, The Times made public a database that assigned "value added" ratings to some 6,000 Los Angeles Unified School District teachers. Rankings from "least effective" to "most effective" were assigned to teachers based on an analysis of whether they consistently raised or lowered their students' scores on standardized tests. Teachers were allowed to review their scores in advance and post comments if they wished to. Some were outraged at the idea of publicly releasing the data. Others welcomed the feedback. And still others questioned how a single measure could provide accurate information about a teacher's competency, and worried that teachers would become much more test-focused in their teaching. We have excerpted some teachers' comments below. Their full comments and those of other teachers can be found on our searchable database at projects.latimes.com/value-added
Irma Estrada, Gledhill Street Elementary
Teachers need information, tools and support. Targeting them by name in a newspaper is degrading and disrespectful to a population of educators who put a lot of heart and soul (not to mention time and money) into a job that is not properly compensated, and presents a whole slew of challenges that go beyond scores on a test.
Benjamin Nnanna Ofoha, Harrison Street Elementary
I think The Times has done an excellent job here and should be commended. Teachers need to know how well they are meeting their students' academic needs year after year. Those teachers whose students are not performing well need to know and seek help to modify their teaching strategies, and those teachers whose students are doing well need to know that too. The district should use these data to help all teachers improve their teaching methods.
Helen Steinmetz, Carthy Center Elementary
I fear that the emphasis on test scores will encourage more teaching to the test instead of the much more important skills such as critical thinking in both math and language arts.
It will encourage a quantity over quality approach to teaching that adds no value whatsoever to student achievement.
This data would have been put to better use if it were not made public. It demeans our profession and the teachers who try their utmost to do a difficult job. What scores don't tell is the complete story of what goes into making an effective teacher, and it is so much more than a score on a test.
William Matthew Covely, Langdon Avenue Elementary
The motive of The Times is laudable. No one can be satisfied with the present state of public schools, especially in big-city districts like LAUSD where the high school dropout rate is close to 50% at many schools. At my elementary school, three-fourths of the students can't read at the appropriate grade level. For the most part, the yearly state tests are fair and comprehensive. But what I think The Times has done in this large and complex debate, essentially, is jump the gun on the value-added theory, and has, in the process, unjustly damaged the reputation of thousands.
According to a study just released (July 2010) by the U.S. Department of Education, "Error Rates in Measuring Teacher and School Performance Based on Student Test Score Gains," about 90% of the determinants of standardized test scores are beyond the control of classroom teachers (what the study called "student-level" factors).
Further, researchers found that value-added models of evaluating teachers, such as the one The Times is using, are currently "unstable" predictors of future individual teacher performance. The Times no doubt knew of these bothersome facts, or should have, prior to deciding to publish.
Joan Fowles Lavery, Wilbur Avenue Elementary
This type of evaluation will lead to teachers teaching to a test. As we know, students who take preparatory (practice tests) for SAT and college entrance exams do better than students who do not. If test scores will be used to evaluate teachers, then teachers will work on test-taking skills and the limited content on standardized tests rather than teaching the child. It will improve test scores, but will it prepare our students for the real world?
It would be nice if The Times worked for ways to raise revenues for our schools instead of trying to tear teachers down and break our spirits.
Melanie Podley, Ranchito Avenue Elementary
I wish I'd had access to this type of data my very first year of teaching. We give students scores to let them know how they rank and where they need to improve. Maybe it's time teachers are given the same. I can't wait for future articles from The Times analyzing what may separate me, an "average" teacher, from an extremely effective one. It's sad that teachers have had to wait for information like this from a newspaper, rather than getting it from our district much sooner.
Richard Glenn Shimizu, 156th Street Elementary
Value-added scores can be a valuable component in evaluating a teacher's effectiveness, but they should not be used as the sole measure.