School Mental Health Project


Reporting on Teacher Effectiveness:
The Discussion Heats Up

The Los Angeles Times has generated a storm by using a value-added analysis of students' year to year progress on standardized tests to rate teachers. The statistics used compare each student's progress with his or her own performance in past years. Based on test score data covering seven years, the newspaper analyzed the effects of more than 6,000 elementary school teachers on their students' English and math achievement test scores. The article specifically made paired comparisons of teachers at two elementary schools. One at each school had a high value-added score and one had a low score. The teachers were featured in the article by name, with their pictures, and with designations of who was effective and who wasn't. The point was to stress that there are significant disparities among teachers in the same school and teaching the same grade levels.

The reactions to the newspapers report have been immediate and direct.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan endorsed the approach taken and, in general, the public release of information about how well individual teachers fare at raising their students' test scores. This statement represents the first time the Obama administration has directly embraced a public airing of information about teacher performance. Duncan chose to emphasize that "In the 6,000 teachers ... studied, you have a minimum of 1,000 amazing teachers that are beating the odds every single day."

What that says about the other 5,000 is unclear.

Diane Ravitch, a former federal education official and author of the bestselling book "The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education" had a different reaction to the Los Angeles Times' report. "I thought it was disgraceful. There was a fundamental meanness about [the story] that turned my stomach." While she sees a role for such data in identifying and helping struggling teachers, Ravitch opposes use of standardized test data to fire teachers or close schools.

Not surprisingly, the teachers union was incensed. "You're leading people in a dangerous direction, making it seem like you can judge the quality of a teacher by a test," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.

And on August 27th, leading educational testing experts issued a report entitled, Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers which cautions against heavy reliance on the use of test scores in teacher evaluation.

ALL THIS MAKES IT EVEN MORE IMPERATIVE TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK FOR THE PROPOSED MODEL CORE TEACHING STANDARDS PROPOSED BY THE COUNCIL OF CHIEF STATE SCHOOL OFFICERS (CCSSO)

See and comment on the CCSSO document online at: http://www.ccsso.org/Documents/2010/Model_Core_Teaching_Standards_DRAFT_FOR_PUBLIC_COMMENT_2010.pdf .

And for a perspective on essential changes, see our analysis in the Center Report entitled: Transforming Schools or Tinkering? An Analysis of CCSSO's Model Core Teaching Standards -- online at http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/pdfdocs/ccssoanalysis.pdf.

As always, if you have something for sharing about this, please send it to Ltaylor@ucla.edu.

In addition, see the list of Emerging Issues identified over the years by the Center and used as a stimulus for discussion on our Net Exchange - http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/newnetexchange.htm

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