NPR just ran a short interview with the reporter who wrote the “Value-Added” story for the LA Times. You can listen to it here. As far as I know, this is the only comment he’s given since the story broke. Let me know if you are aware of other responses he’s made.
I was struck by his basic attitude of “The information is there, we know it’s not an accurate measure of how good a teacher is, but we should release it anyway because then parents can use it to demand that principals get their kids in classes whose teachers who get high scores. But we’re not making any policy advice.”
His position, like the article itself, seems a bit weak…
That’s my summary — let me know if you think it’s accurate or not.
This reporter’s excuse for publishing the data the way he did shows how ignorant he really is of public education. He has proven his own ineffectiveness and lack of logic with his excuse. What’s a principal to do in this case? Place all two hundred kids in the teacher’s class with high scores? The LA Times in general and the reporter both have shown their dearth of knowledge about public education.
I tried leaving this comment at NPR, but their obscenity filter blocked it. If you can figure out why, I’m dying to know!
>>Felch really misses the point here. The National Academies said that VAM is not good enough to judge teacher quality, so don’t use VAM for policy decisions. Felch offers the excuse that “we’re not making policy decisions” but misses the first point – the data aren’t reliable. A study from the US Dept. of Ed. just last month found 25% error rates for this kind of evaluation. One has to wonder just what it would take for these reporters to concede they made a mistake. Their work has been roundly criticized by experts in the field, and ignores policy positions held by every leading educational and research organization.
For what it’s worth, I tried to advise Felch, and his colleague Jason Song, that they were making some mistakes in their reporting on VAM – nearly a year ago. To see my original email to them, and the sources that they neglect to consider sufficiently, go to my blog at http://accomplishedcaliforniateachers.wordpress.com
Larry, I disagree with your assessment of the reporter’s interview. I think his message was:
1. Not all teachers are equally effective, and a teacher’s effectiveness is a major factor in a student’s success.
2. There is empirical data available that can be used to help evaluate a teacher’s effectiveness. It’s not perfect, and it’s just one of many tools. But currently that data is not being used, even in a limited way (based on the original Times story, the teachers themselves were unaware of their value-added data).
3. Our current system of teacher evaluation allows bad teachers to spend 30-year careers in the classroom. Shouldn’t we be looking at alternatives?
The value-added method (VAM) neglects to take into account numerous variables. Has every teacher attended the same university? Do all the teachers receive the same professional development opportunitites? Is the approved curriculum at a particular school required to be strictly uniform, or is there an acceptable degree of variation from one classroom to another? Are the teacher’s all from the same demographic? Are the students from the same demographic? Are the students all entering the classroom with the same level of basic skills (ie: reading)? It is not hard to answer the questions above. Presenting parents with “data” implies accuracy. Education, especially when it is discussed at the federal level is loaded with terminology that provides parents with implicit meaning. Take a look at positive phrases and terms like; No Child Left Behind, Value Added, Adequate Yearly Progress, and Highly Qualified Teacher. I don’t want to leave a child behind, I certainly feel that if progress is to made it shoud be at the very least adequate, and I think I would be a bad person if I were to promote the idea that children be taught by less than a highly qualified teacher. While these buzz words emote feelings of frustration in professional teaching circles, the average citizen is easily hooked into supporting these phrases and the very broad concepts they represent. These phrases are political, and are happily thrown about by those who seek to minimize the complexity of the day to day lives of american teachers, and the community members they serve.
The original article reports, “analysis found huge disparities among teachers, sometimes just down the hall from one another.” I’m pretty sure that different students from different households were in each of the classes that were subjected to this “analysis.” Lastly, the value-added method scenario reported indicated that “huge” strides were made under the direction of an “effective” teacher despite the limited English skills, and poverty levels of students in the classroom. Really? Really? Common sense reign, and we should turn away the door to door salesmen who are trying to sell us a better product than the one we already have. America continues to be the leader of the free world, due mainly to the educational systems that have been in place for decades. Perhaps the federal government should re-examine lessons from high school consumer education classes related to making a family budget, and not spending more money than you have. Oh yes, maybe the teacher of the course already taken was not “effective.”