Opinion
Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor

Student Inspiration Not Gauged by Value-Added Data

September 23, 2014 1 min read
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To the Editor:

I read with interest the article on principals’ lack of attention to value-added data when evaluating teachers. The article suggested that principals don’t use value-added data because they don’t understand it. I strongly disagree.

As a principal, I would never use value-added data—even if I cared to understand it. The question is not how to use the data; it is whether we should use the data.

If we believe the purpose of teaching is to provide all manner of opportunities for students to maximize their potential as learners, as opposed to raising student achievement, then we don’t need value-added data. Instead, we need to evaluate teachers based on their ability to inspire learning, not on what we think has been learned after a mere 180 days in the classroom annually.

Yesterday I was copied on an email from a college student thanking her 9th grade teacher for inspiring her to love classical literature. She wrote: “I feel like my time in your English classroom laid the foundation for my curiosity. ... I can trace the majority of my current academic interests to a conversation or episode in your classroom.”

Other than the email itself, how does this teacher get credit for her clear success with this student? How is this student’s value added to a teacher’s evaluation? Can the value of a teacher be assessed by a complex statistical method? Or, is the true value of a teacher the personal relationships she or he establishes that inspire lifelong learning?

Matt Ragone

Principal

Langley High School

McLean, Va.

A version of this article appeared in the September 24, 2014 edition of Education Week as Student Inspiration Not Gauged By Value-Added Data

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