Education in the News:

A good piece in the New York Times, “Hurdles Emerge in Rising Effort to Rate Teachers,” suggests that moving quickly in the direction of using ‘value added student data’ may not be the answer.

“For the past three years, Katie Ward and Melanie McIver have worked as a team at Public School 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, teaching a fourth-grade class. But on the reports that rank the city’s teachers based on their students’ standardized test scores, Ms. Ward’s name is nowhere to be found.”

” ‘I feel as though I don’t exist,’ ” she said last Monday, looking up from playing a vocabulary game with her students.

“Down the hall, Deirdre Corcoran, a fifth-grade teacher, received a ranking for a year when she was out on child-care leave. In three other classrooms at this highly ranked school, fourth-grade teachers were ranked among the worst in the city at teaching math, even though their students’ average score on the state math exam was close to four, the highest score.”

” ‘If I thought they gave accurate information, I would take them more seriously,'” the principal of P.S. 321, Elizabeth Phillips, said about the rankings. “‘But some of my best teachers have the absolute worst scores,'” she said, adding that she had based her assessment of those teachers on “‘classroom observations, talking to the children and the number of parents begging me to put their kids in their classes.’ ”

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Another piece in Rethinking Schools made the same point in this article: “Neither Fair Nor Accurate · Research-Based Reasons Why High-Stakes Tests Should Not Be Used to Evaluate Teachers.”

“Current and former leaders of many major urban school districts, including Washington, D.C.’s Michelle Rhee and New Orleans’ Paul Vallas, have sought to use tests to evaluate teachers. In fact, the use of high-stakes standardized tests to evaluate teacher performance à la VAM has become one of the cornerstones of current efforts to reshape public education along the lines of the free market.”

“On the surface, the logic of VAM and using student scores to evaluate teachers seems like common sense: The more effective a teacher, the better his or her students should do on standardized tests.”

“However, although research tells us that teacher quality has an effect on test scores, this does not mean that a specific teacher is responsible for how a specific student performs on a standardized test. Nor does it mean we can equate effective teaching (or actual learning) with higher test scores.”

“Given the current attacks on teachers, teachers’ unions, and public education through the use of educational accountability schemes based wholly or partly on high-stakes standardized test scores and VAM, it is important that educators, students, and parents understand why, based on educational research, such tests should not be used to evaluate teachers.”

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