Education Opinion

Value-Added Worth Is Limited

By Walt Gardner — July 31, 2015 1 min read
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Just when I thought the debate over the value-added model in rating teachers was finally settled, new studies re-open the controversy (“Evaluating teachers: Precise but irrelevant metrics?” The Hechinger Report, Jul. 24). They claim that properly designed, the model controls for all factors.

Even if this were true, I question the relevance of using standardized test scores as the principal way of determining teacher quality. Notice that I wrote “quality” rather than effectiveness. That’s because boosting test scores alone is no assurance of quality. It’s altogether possible for teachers to teach their subject matter well (effectiveness) but teach their students to hate the subject matter in the process (quality). When that happens, it’s a pyrrhic victory.

For example, Asian students ace standardized tests, which reformers assert means they are getting a first-rate education. But Asian students are also known for expressing intense dislike for the same subjects. If the goal of education is to produce lifelong learners, then non-cognitive outcomes need to be given far more attention.

Let’s not forget that long after subject matter is forgotten, attitudes remain. I’ve attended more than two dozen class reunions at the high school where I taught for 28 years. At the 40th-year reunion last July, which was attended by more than 120 graduates, the many I spoke to expressed appreciation for the teachers who made their subjects come alive and instilled in them a desire to learn more.

I know of no value-added model that attempts to measure affective outcomes. That’s why I question the relevance of the value-added model.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.