Readers sound off on value-added model, district efficiency

While reader response was mixed, many readers were skeptical of these new measures.

In recent eSchool News stories, we asked readers if teachers should be evaluated using the value-added model, which uses a student’s past performance on high-stakes tests to determine how much “value” a teacher has added in a given year, and whether school districts should be judged based on their efficiency—that is, how well their students achieve in comparison to how much the district spends on each child. The results are in, and our readers were largely skeptical of these controversial measures.

In Contributing Editor Cara Erenben’s story, “Should student test scores be used to evaluate teachers?” Erenben reports on the early results from a Gates Foundation study suggesting that researchers have found some validity in the value-added model. But when asked, “Should the value-added model be used to evaluate teachers?” only four percent of readers said this was a “valid and objective tool for measuring effectiveness.”

Fifty-four percent of readers said the model should be used, “but only in conjunction with other measures of teacher performance.” Forty-two percent of readers said they think the model is “unreliable.”

“This article [noted,] ‘Reasons for instability from year to year could include factors such as significant differences in class size from year to year, an influenza outbreak, a group of disruptive students, construction noise during testing, and so on.’ The ‘and so on’ is what concerns me,” said a reader identified as the_hill 1962. “There are so many reasons. Most often, a teacher has no control over what his/her schedule is going to be. Sure, this is true for most professions. Probably the worst case is that of an emergency room doctor. I wonder if they evaluate E.R. doctors with a similar value-added model concept?”

See what readers had to say on other hot topics:

Readers: Here are our favorite apps for education

Readers: ‘Bad’ teachers aren’t the problem

Many readers said that using test scores alone is unreliable, because there are too many factors outside of the classroom that can affect student achievement.

“The assumption seems to be that student success or failure is based on a given set of tests, and that the teacher just needs to teach the ‘stuff.’ This assumption is flawed, because student success is based on many facets both in and out of school,” said Judith Naylor.

“The teacher alone cannot change the home that the students are coming from. The teacher alone cannot change administrative decisions which negatively impact what goes on in the classroom. Using statistics is essential to improving education. But the statement that value-added testing ‘compares students to themselves over time and largely controls for influences outside teachers’ control, such as poverty and parental involvement’ is ludicrous. A student who does poorly in a first test and comes from a non-supportive home and school is not going to show improvement on a subsequent test, no matter how much work a teacher puts in with that child. Don’t use the data to punish. Use the data to examine all circumstances and work as a community to focus on the problems the student is facing.”

eSchool News Staff

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