This past weekend, Ryan of I Thought a Think decided to take to the numbers and analyze actual testing data to determine the “Most Valuable Teacher” from a group of four 1st grade teachers. He stumbled upon a problem pretty quickly: he ended up finding different points of statistical analysis that qualified all four teachers as the “winner.” Teacher A’s class experienced the highest rise in scores during the year, while Teacher C’s class’ average score trumped the rest, and Teacher B and D earn their keep by raising their students above state-standard lines.
The varying outcomes led Ryan to an insight about valuing teachers based on students’ performance and statistical analysis:
Value" is a homophone; there's the value signified by the numbers, but there's also the values of the school, the district, and the state which have to be superimposed atop any effort to link the data to the teacher. If the incentive pay/merit pay/whatever pay in this case goes to only one of the four teachers, you're making a statement about the value of the work the other three did, and it's a pretty lousy thing to say to the other three who also made progress that their success didn't matter as much.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Blogboard blog.