Value-Added Methods Misjudge 'Effectiveness'

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To the Editor:

I agree with Diane Ravitch’s view that value-added assessment should not be used the sole gauge of teachers’ effectiveness (“The Problems with Value-Added Assessment,” Bridging Differences blog, Oct. 5, 2010). The method has led too often to controversy and bad feelings.

Many Los Angeles Unified School District teachers are upset by their low evaluations, and with good reason. The type of information they are based on should be given minuscule consideration in comparison with other ways of assessing the impact of teaching.

I particularly appreciated Ms. Ravitch’s mention of Rigoberto Ruelas, the 39-year-old teacher who committed suicide after The Los Angeles Times’ recent release of test-score data for the city’s schools and teachers. Mr. Ruelas was said to have gotten a “great performance review” from his supervisors, even though his “value added” assessment may not have reflected this.

As a former student in the Los Angeles Unified District, I can recall being surrounded in high school by peers who did not care for their teachers or their educations. My favorite teachers were not appreciated by these students, most of whom did poorly. Often, students can go into a classroom with a negative opinion of the class before it even starts.

I mention this because we should remember that it’s not entirely a teacher’s fault when students do not learn the material. Students should also be factored into the equation, a fact Ms. Ravitch notes.

The value-added method will lead to misconceptions about teachers’ abilities, especially in tough-to-teach classrooms. We need to improve the criteria used for judging what teachers do. And we should not release unexplained test data to portray their efforts and assess their work.

Ruby Rubio
North Hollywood, Calif.

Vol. 30, Issue 08, Page 20

Published in Print: October 20, 2010, as Value-Added Methods Misjudge 'Effectiveness'
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