Education Letter to the Editor

Likening Value-Added to ‘McCarthyism’

June 07, 2011 1 min read

To the Editor:

First the American Federation of Teachers, and then the National Education Association, caved in to the possibility that judging teachers by their student performance has any merit (“NEA Proposes Making a Shift on Evaluation,” May 18, 2011). I call it educational McCarthyism.

Why don’t we judge soldiers, policemen, firemen, nurses, or doctors with a value-added scheme? The reason is twofold: The aforementioned jobs have high public positives, and because of that positive scrutiny, the idea of a value-added concept seems absurd—which it is.

Let me give you an example of how nonsensical value-added is. If a child fails to pass his reading test, do we give him extra help, or do we say the only reason he failed is because his teacher is ineffective? Why don’t we say that the soldiers in Afghanistan should have their pay lowered because they have not won the war after 10 years? With the soldier, nurse, doctor, or policeman, when something is not working in these professions, we try another way. With teachers, we attack their livelihood. Too bad for the kids, because by the time we realize that this way has not improved anything, our country will be further behind and the lives of earnest teachers will be ruined.

Elliot Kotler

Retired teacher

Ossining, N.Y.

A version of this article appeared in the June 08, 2011 edition of Education Week as Likening Value-Added to ‘McCarthyism’