In a move that had many local educators seething, the Los Angeles Times in August published an online database comparing more than 6,000 elementary school teachers based on a controversial statistical method that relies on test-score data to determine their effectiveness.
The Times rated the city’s third- through fifth-grade teachers using an approach called the value-added model, which seeks to determine the effectiveness of a teacher by looking at the test scores of his or her students. Each student’s past test performance is used to project his or her performance in the future. The difference between the child’s actual and projected results is the estimated “value” that the teacher has added or subtracted during the year.
The head of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, said she believes parents have a right to know how well their children’s teachers are rated on employee evaluations–but she disagreed with the newspaper’s decision to publish data from its value-added analysis. Such data should be considered only as part of a broader evaluation of a teacher’s performance, she said, and they should be available only to the teacher, his or her principal, and individual parents.
“Today, the Los Angeles Times chose to ignore experts from across the country who have pointed out both the limitations and dangers of using, in isolation, the value-added method to rate a teacher’s performance. We are extremely disappointed that the Times gave no weight to these opinions, but we are more disturbed that teachers will now be unfairly judged by incomplete data masked as comprehensive evaluations,” Weingarten said in an Aug. 29 statement.
The controversy heated up even further when it was revealed that a popular Los Angeles teacher committed suicide in the wake of the Times’ publication of its teacher rankings, which rated him “less effective than average.”
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