Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

Value-Added Only Part of Bigger Picture

February 01, 2011 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

Last month in New York City, the media fought for access to information about “the job performance of public employees,” yet what they won, the public release of teacher value-added scores, is only part of the overall picture of teacher performance. Though the newly released teacher value-added scores are considered “the best available measure,” we wonder why they are not being offered in conjunction with other data points that illustrate a fuller picture of teacher performance.

The danger of the public release of this data is that its authoritative identity as a numerical, statistical wonder-number may make it seem as if the number itself carries meaning and authority on its own, disconnected from the context in which teaching occurs and the scores themselves were presumably generated. While advocates of value-added data have never claimed the scores should be used as a singular measure of teacher effectiveness, the scores are often presented to the public, in court battles and online databases, without context or direction on how to interpret or situate them.

As we recently wrote (“Public Displays of Teacher Effectiveness,” edweek.org, Dec. 15, 2010), “The way we choose to write and talk about [value-added measurement] may make all the difference.” When we talk about value-added scores as being only one part of an overall picture of teacher effectiveness, we are immediately prompted to ask additional questions and to engage with the process rather than just make a first-pass diagnosis of effective teaching. We can ask how such scores align with other student-achievement measures, teacher observations, trajectories of professional growth, and particular contexts and circumstances.

We hope that the public reads the scores in ways that spark conversations about other sources of information and other features and layers of the story of student achievement and effective teaching. As Lee Cronbach, the father of a method for determining reliability in educational and psychological testing has written: “The majority of studies of educational effects—whether classroom experiments, or evaluations of programs, or surveys—have collected and analyzed data in ways that conceal more than they reveal.” Cronbach was referring to studies conducted 35 years ago, but his comment holds so long as single data points are allowed to dictate a version of reality without the context and layers of information that act to situate and enrich their meaning.

Value-added is a starting point for conversations about and further examination of effective teaching, but on its own it may conceal more than it reveals.

Rachael Gabriel and Jessica Lester

University of Tennessee

Knoxville, Tenn.

A version of this article appeared in the February 02, 2011 edition of Education Week as Value-Added Only Part of Bigger Picture

Events

Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Science Webinar
Close the Gender Gap: Getting Girls Excited about STEM
Join female STEM leaders as they discuss the importance of early cheerleaders, real life role models, and female networks of support.
Content provided by Logitech
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
Mission Possible: Saving Time While Improving Student Outcomes
Learn how district leaders are maximizing instructional time and finding the best resources for student success through their MTSS framework.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: January 18, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Letter to the Editor EdWeek's Most-Read Letters of 2022
Here are this year’s top five Letters to the Editor.
1 min read
Education Week opinion letters submissions
Gwen Keraval for Education Week
Education In Their Own Words Withstanding Trauma, Leading With Honesty, and More: The Education Stories That Stuck With Us
Our journalists highlight why stories on the impact of trauma on schooling and the fallout of the political discourse on race matter to the field.
4 min read
Kladys Castellón prays during a vigil for the victims of a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.
Kladys Castellón prays during a vigil for the victims of a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.
Billy Calzada/The San Antonio Express-News via AP
Education In Their Own Words Masking, Miscarriages, and Mental Health: The Education Stories That Stuck With Us
Our reporters share the stories they wrote that rose above the fray—and why.
5 min read
Crystal Curtis and her son, Jordan Curtis, outside their home in Plano, Texas. Crystal, a healthcare professional whose son attends school in Plano talks about the challenges of ensuring quality schooling, her discomfort with the state and district’s rollback of mandatory masking, and the complications of raising a Black child in a suburban district as policies shift.
Crystal Curtis and her son, Jordan Curtis, outside their home in Plano, Texas. Crystal, a healthcare professional whose son attends school in Plano talks about the challenges of ensuring quality schooling, her discomfort with the state and district’s rollback of mandatory masking, and the complications of raising a Black child in a suburban district as policies shift.
Allison V. Smith for Education Week