The value-added assessments of teachers–which use improvements in student test scores to evaluate teacher effectiveness–has grown in popularity across the country with support from the federal Department of Education, which has tied teacher evaluations to the Race to the Top state-grant program, reports the New York Times. But their use remains controversial. Teachers’ unions argue that the method is unfair and incomplete and have fought its implementation across the country.

Colleagues of Rigoberto Ruelas were alarmed when he failed to show up for work one day in September. They described him as a devoted teacher who tutored students before school, stayed with them after and, on weekends, took students from his South Los Angeles elementary school to the beach. When his body was found in a ravine in the Angeles National Forest, and the coroner ruled it a suicide, Mr. Ruelas’s death became a flash point, drawing the city’s largest newspaper into the middle of the debate over reforming the nation’s second-largest school district. When The Los Angeles Times released a database of “value-added analysis” of every teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District in August, Mr. Ruelas was rated “less effective than average.” Colleagues said he became noticeably depressed, and family members have guessed that the rating contributed to his death. On Monday, a couple hundred people marched to the Los Angeles Times building, where they waved signs and chanted, demanding that the newspaper remove Mr. Ruelas’s name from the online database.

“Who got the ‘F’? L.A. Times,” chanted the crowd, which was made up mostly of students, teachers and parents from Miramonte Elementary School, where Mr. Ruelas taught fifth grade…

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staff and wire services reports