When we want to try a new restaurant, we read the reviews; when we want to see a movie, we listen to the critics. But should the same online ratings that influence our lifestyle decisions be used for teachers? According to a new report, that’s the education reform question du jour.
The report, titled “Subtraction by Distraction: Publishing Value-Added Estimates of Teachers by Name Hinders Education Reform,” published by the Center for American Progress (CAP), argues that publicly identifying teachers with value-added estimates of their abilities actually will undermine efforts to improve public schools.
CAP’s report notes that the discussion of publishing teachers’ names along with their value-added score (a measure of a teacher’s efficacy, relative to other teachers in the group, in promoting student achievement) began when the Los Angeles Times published a report featuring the performance ratings for Los Angeles Unified School District teachers.
Parents and the public could look up specific teachers in the database and see how they ranked in both math and English, from least effective to most effective in the district.
The data were based on students’ standardized test scores, and the teachers’ rankings were in relation to their peers.
“At first glance, the idea seems to possess intuitive appeal,” the report says. “After all, research using value-added estimates shows that teachers are the most important school-based driver of students’ academic success.”
However, the report notes that value-added estimates should never be used as the sole basis for informing high-stakes decisions about individual teachers.