A controversial project by The Los Angeles Times to measure teacher effectiveness at the classroom level—and publish the statistics, teacher by teacher—is drawing support from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and outrage from the local teachers’ union.
Using “value added” test-score-growth data gathered from a public-records request, the newspaper created a database with information about how well teachers in tested grades and subjects fared in boosting student achievement.
It plans to release data on individual teachers’ growth scores because, the newspaper wrote, “they bear on the performance of public employees who provide an important public service.” The Los Angeles Unified School District had the ability to generate such information but never pursued it.
Some of the early findings stand in contrast to the conventional wisdom about teacher distribution. For example, the newspaper found that the most- and least-effective teachers were not concentrated in the most- or least-affluent schools. That’s counter to most other measures of teacher quality; for instance, low-income students tend to be assigned more out-of-field teachers.
The analysis also determined that teachers’ qualifications had few effects overall on their effectiveness, in contrast to other studies suggesting that “bundles” of certain qualifications might have an impact. And it found that class size was unrelated to effectiveness.
Secretary Duncan, asked about the public release of the scores, told the Times last week that parents have a right to know if their children’s teachers are effective. “What’s there to hide?” he said. California Secretary of Education Bonnie Reiss said the state would encourage more districts to release value-added scores for teachers.
United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents 45,000 public school teachers and other public employees, urged its members to protest the project, arguing that test scores aren’t an appropriate measure of student learning and are even worse for judging teacher effectiveness.
A version of this article appeared in the August 25, 2010 edition of Education Week as L.A. Times Stirs Controversy With Teacher-Effectiveness Scoring