Here’s a look at a randomly-selected teacher rated of “average” effectiveness
Notice how quickly and easily it works. Compare her to another teacher, one of the publicly identified (and why not, since public school teachers are public servants?) “least effective” teachers at this randomly selected school:
Yikes! My kid might lose points on the test with Ms. Pfau! What parents would put their kid in that class?
But wait. The “value-added” data could be compromised. To explain her student’s loss of learning, any of the following may be true of Ms Pfau’s classes:
- The kids in her class may be significantly more learning disabled than a class she competes against; she has no control over the make up of her students and cannot be held to the same standard if her students proportionately have more limitations;
- The kids in her class may be significantly more impovrished at home than a class she competes against; see argument above
- The kids in her class may be significantly more rowdy than a class she competes against; see argument above
- The same kids may not even be in her class at the beginning and the end of the school year–something that happens a lot with urban district’s like LA’s; the tests themselves may not be reliable–have these tests been tested?
- Ms Pfau may not be getting the support from her Principal and parents that the counterpart she competes against receives
None of this touches on what may be the biggest objection to this evaluating of a teacher’s worth–a “values-added” system is based on the premise that “learning” can be reliably gauged on the basis of multiple-choice math and language arts tests. Everything else learned won’t count. So what about all the possibly excellent things Ms Pfau has taught children about art, or history, or philosophy. None of those is relfected in LA’s value-added tests.
The LA Times is doing something else that’s admirable with its release of the information: it’s providing space for the teacher to reply and offer his/her response to the publication of his/her data. Ms Pfau hasn’t done so yet. But some have, and it’s just possible that the forum this provides will yield a really useful public conversation that can result in better schools. If you’re rated highly, you can also show your noblesse oblige. Notice how Ms. Azafrani explains her perfect scores: