LA Times Teacher Ratings Database

For tonight’s Principles of Assessment class I am currently taking, we are to bring examples of the role of stakeholders and values in assessment & decision-making. This is a timely topic given the stunt that was pulled by the LA Times this past weekend.
The LA Times just published a database of 6000 teachers’ value-added ratings. The ratings were calculated as a part of a longitudinal study of Los Angeles school and teacher effectiveness. As I understand it, the rating is a statistical test of a given teacher’s ability to increase student scores on standardized tests during a given year. So, if you start off with students already scoring high, and they don’t improve, or their scores slip after taking your class, your rating will suffer.
I am not yet an expert in research methods, but I do recall something in my studies about ethical treatment of participants. Somehow, I don’t think naming names and releasing scores like this can be counted as ethical research. What’s more, Joe A. Citizen isn’t going to take the time to understand the narrow, limited scope of the measurement.
California is in a budgetary nightmare and public education is always a huge part of any state’s budget so this sort of information is certain to draw in readers to the LA Times. It also provides ammo for politicians demanding teacher accountability, but as we noted in our class last week, real assessment of teacher quality requires much more than a single measurement.
Here’s a suggestion for parents wanting to know more about your kids’ teachers. Go visit the friggin’ class! It’s my understanding that parent/teacher conferences are way under-utilized, but I’m not even talking about that. Go visit while class is in session for a while, and sit next to your kid as he or she is learning. I’ve done this several times now since my kids started school, and I always learn something new when I do. Of course you can’t expect just to pop in unannounced, but with prior arrangements I’ve never had a problem seeing my kids’ teachers in action.
If we want teacher accountability, why not implement a reasonable way parents can come to school and see what’s happening for themselves? Instead we rely on expensive, and limited measurements that only tell part of the story because it’s easier to do.

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