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The Best Posts About The LA Times Article On “Value-Added” Teacher Ratings

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(In April, 2011, The Los Angeles Times, unwilling to learn from their huge mistake of publicly releasing faulty rankings of thousands of public school teachers, announced that they are now ready to rank over five thousand more — this time focusing on the elementary level.)

(And in May, 2011, they did just that). Read more about it at “The L.A. Times Does Not Appear To Understand What “Irony” Means”

Sunday’s Los Angeles Times’ article, “Grading The Teachers: Who’s teaching L.A.’s kids?”, has unleashed a firestorm of, in my view, well-founded criticism.

Unfortunately, it has also gained praise from some quarters, including Education Secretary Arne Duncan. At least that LA Times story covering Duncan’s support included a good quote from Diane Ravitch:

“I thought it was disgraceful,” said 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.” “There was a fundamental meanness about [the story] that turned my stomach.”

I thought it might be useful if I collected what I think have been the best posts about the LA Times article. I’ll be continuing to add to this list, and please let me know what I might be missing.

In addition, keeping in mind Saul Alinsky’s (the “father” of modern-day community organizing and the found of the organization for whom I worked as a community organizer for many years) perspective that “The price of criticism is a constructive alternative,” you might want to see The Washington Post’s “Answer Sheet” today which will publish my thoughts on what helpful and accurate teachers assessments look like.

Here are my choices for The Best Posts About The LA Times Article On “Value-Added” Teacher Ratings:

Ratings: Giving Everyone A Public AYP Rating by Alexander Russo provides the best short critique of the article that I’ve seen.

“Scandalize Their Names” is a great post at Failing School that I think gives the best lengthier critique.

Corey Bunje Bower has written a more detailed analysis that is worth reading.

School Finance 101 offers another good analysis of the LA Times data.

Teachers: Strong Reactions To LA Times’ Value Added Story is another post by Alexander Russo, and it’s definitely worth reading, especially for its comments.

Stephen Krashen has written a letter to the Times, accusing them of “practicing educational research without a license.” Krashen has expanded that letter into a blog post here.

And I’d like to include one more Alexander Russo post describing state laws against publicly releasing test data attributable to specific teachers.

There’s More to Schools than Teachers is Claus von Zastrow’s typically thoughtful piece on the topic.

LAT on Teacher Value-Added: A Disheartening Replay comes from Rick Hess at Education Week.

Public Reprimands by John Thompson

Teaching Effectiveness and the LA Times: A Debacle in the Making by Barnett Berry

“A Right Way & A Wrong Way To Link Teachers & Student Test Scores?” from the Christian Science Monitor

Of course, I also need to include my own original post, L.A. Times Prints Cheap Shot At Teachers.

‘Outing’ teachers of poorly performing students proves difficult from California Watch

Arne Duncan is Just Plain Clueless. . . by Bill Ferriter

Not exactly covered with glory in L.A. by Sherman Dorn

Accountability Missing at L.A. Times by David B. Cohen (you can also listen to an interview with David here)

And I just wrote Why I Think Arne Duncan Has Just Made His Biggest Mistake

The LA Times Goes Astray is another good post from Claus von Zastrow

A Teacher’s View of the LA Times’ Educators Analysis comes from Witness LA.

This next post is actually terrible, and surprising, since it comes from someone who often does good work — John Merrow.  In his post, Proof that teachers matter, he is one of the few people who supports what the LA Times is doing. The comments, though, are absolutely incredible, and are a must-read. Among the great comments, however, there is also one that is very disappointing. In it, Grant Wiggins, the widely-respected education author, also supports the LA Times position. All I can say is “Wow.” Joe Bower writes more extensively about this post and its comments.

Barnett Berry has written another good post titled Teachers and Valued Added Tools: Finding the Right Way, Far from the Madding Crowd.

Annotated LA Times Value-Added Webchat is an insightful critique — written by Alexander Russo — of a webchat the LA Times hosted with the reporters who wrote the story.

You Don’t Have to Take My Word For It #2: Value-Added and the LA Times is a guest post by Tom Hoffman at “The Line” blog.

Value Added is No Magic: Assessing Teacher Effectiveness by John Rogers was published at The Huffington Post.

L.A. Times Just Releases Teacher Rankings

Another Red Herring From Arne Duncan?

Adding Value to the Value-Added Debate is an excellent post by Liam Goldrick on the LA Times story.

The Best Response To The LA Times “Value-Added” Series

Q&A: What teachers and parents should make of The Times’ rankings is a great guest column in the Los Angeles Times that points out problems with the rankings the paper gave teachers based on student test scores.

What’s wrong with releasing names and scores? is from The Washington Post.

Dr. John Thompson has a very important post over at This Week In Education. It’s titled Fact-Checking the LA Times and, instead of going into the details here, I’d just suggest you go over to see some of the important points he makes. I guess it is time to start checking some facts claimed by “school reformers.”

Several months after The Times article was published, I wrote a post titled Researchers Criticize L.A. Times “Value-Added” Study — The Times, Living in Alternative Universe, Says It Supports Them. Here is what it said:

The National Education Policy Center today published a report critical of the Los Angeles Times study used to publicly evaluate teachers (see The Best Posts About The LA Times Article On “Value-Added” Teacher Ratings).

The study reports:

The research on which the Los Angeles Times relied for its August 2010 teacher effectiveness reporting was demonstrably inadequate to support the published rankings. Using the same L.A. Unified School District data and the same methods as the Times, this study probes deeper and finds the earlier research to have serious weaknesses.

Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post wrote a summary of the report at New study: How L.A. Times teachers data is flawed.

The same Times reporter who wrote the original report then turned around and wrote an article headlined Separate study confirms many Los Angeles Times findings on teacher effectiveness.

The National Education Policy Center then released a lengthy response later in the day to the Times’ article, including words like “misleading” and “red herring.” It offered a detailed analysis of how The Times was misinterpreting their report.

There’s a fascinating article about the battle between researchers questioning the validity of the study used by the Los Angeles Times to rank teachers and make those assessments public. Included in the article is a comment by well-known and respected education professor Mike Rose:

I cringed at the cheap insinuation that the Colorado study is influenced by the source of some of its funding. Shall we consider the vested interest of Mr. Lauter, Mr. Felch, etc. in this project? Or the fact that Thomas Kane, who Mr. Lauter approvingly quotes, is a high-level official at the Gates Foundation, overseeing a project which has invested heavily in Value-Added methods? The point is that there are all kinds of personal, professional, and institutional investments in this debate, so if you’re going to lay them out, lay them all out. And if you suspect a biasing influence, do the reporter’s job of demonstrating it.

But the big, big question for me is how is it that this newspaper moved so strongly toward advocating a particular technology in school reform? The Times is not just editorializing that we need reform, but within its news department is taking a side on a technique. The paper is no longer reporting the news, but creating it and spinning it.

After continued misrepresentations from The Times, the Policy Center has released what I can only describe as a devastating rebuke to the reporters. After reading it, I can’t imagine that anybody would have any faith left in the paper’s objectivity, and it certainly raises many questions of it’s integrity.

Value-Added: Theory Versus Practice is from The Shanker Blog, and offers a useful commentary of the Policy Center/Times controversy.

The Columbia Journalism Review has an excellent article on the issue of newspapers publishing teacher rankings based on test scores.

Why Naming Names Is Wrong is by Diane Ravitch.

Again, please let me know in the comments section if you have written a post about the article, or if you know of other good ones.

If you found this post useful, you might want to consider subscribing to this blog for free.

You might also want to explore the 490 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

9 Comments

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  3. People might be interested in this panel on the media, which included LA Times reporter Jason Felch, one of the authors of the VAM piece, and myself, and Richard Rothstein. It got a bit heated. http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2010/09/the_medias_war_on_teachers.html

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  6. Thank you so much for posting the best critical post regarding the Los Angeles Times shameful publication of teacher names and scores. It is unfortunate that despite all the evidence of flaws in the Value Added system the Times almost daily has a story pushing this form of teacher assessment. The commitment to this system of evaluation approaches the Medieval belief in alchemy.

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