The LA Times Goes Astray
Imagine you open your newspaper in the morning to find a story about dietary supplements. The story includes a throw-away line or two noting that supplements aren't subject to FDA approval and that the research on supplements is mixed. It then proceeds to extol their virtues, list the ailments each is said to cure, and offer links to discount suppliers. I'm guessing you wouldn't think very highly of your paper.
In some respects, the recent LA Times story on teacher effectiveness isn't all that different from my hypothetical story. The authors mumble a few words about problems with the methods it used to rate 6,000 L.A. teachers. They then launch into full-throated advocacy for the approach. They even publish names and pictures of the city's "worst" teachers.
"No one suggests using value-added analysis [of test scores] as the sole measure of a teacher," the authors write. They then proceed to use value-added analysis as the sole measure of 6000 real teachers in real schools. They brand one as "least effective," name him, and print his picture in the paper. Then they supply a database of 6,000 teachers rated solely by test scores. A few words about the limits of value-added measures won't blunt the overall effect of the article. Those teachers have been marked.
The authors note that "ineffective teachers often face no consequences and get no extra help." While I'm pleased that the Times has considered the need to help struggling teachers, I'm sorry to see that thought get swept away so quickly by stronger, darker currents. Regardless of what the authors intended, their story offers far more humiliation than help. It's fodder for those who see teacher evaluation as a way to kick *ss and take names.
Even some strong supporters of value-added measures are a bit squeamish about the story. The paper shouldn't have published names. It shouldn't have relied so little on classroom observation. It shouldn't have glossed over big methodological challenges.
We still don't know what the fallout from this story will be. How many teachers will want to sign up for a job where they can be publicly tried and convicted on shaky evidence? How many mambers of effective teacher teams will start looking askance at each other? How many thoughtful discussions about teacher evaluation will go off the rails?
A few people are cheering the LA Times story. It will advance the cause, they say, even if the data are a bit shaky. I doubt it. Hype, carelessness and mass humiliation will serve no one in the end.
By the way: Robert Pondiscio, a former journalist, offers some very trenchant comments on the LA Times story here.
Click here to browse dozens of Public School Insights interviews with extraordinary education advocates, including:
- Actress/Mathematician Danica McKellar on girls and math
- Best Selling Author Kenneth C. Davis on engaging with history
- Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Danielson on providing health care at school
The views expressed in this website's interviews do not necessarily represent those of the Learning First Alliance or its members.
Excellence is the Standard
At Pierce County High School in rural southeast Georgia, the graduation rate has gone up 31% in seven years. Teachers describe their collaboration as the unifying factor that drives the school’s improvement. Learn more...
- Ed Prep Matters
- PTA's One Voice
- ISTE Connects
- NASBE's On the Road
- PDK Blog
- AACTE's President's Perspective
- The EDifier
- School Board News Today
- Legal Clips
- Learning Forward’s PD Watch
- NAESP's Principals' Office
- NASSP's Principal's Policy Blog
- The Principal Difference
- ASCA Scene
- Always Something
- NSPRA: Social School Public Relations
- Transforming Learning
- AASA's The Leading Edge
- AASA Connects (formerly AASA's School Street)
- NEA Today
- Angles on Education
- Lily's Blackboard
What Else We're Reading
- Advancing the Teaching Profession
- The Answer Sheet
- Edutopia's Blogs
- Politics K-12
- U.S. Department of Education Blog
- John Wilson Unleashed
- The Core Knowledge Blog
- This Week in Education
- Inside School Research
- Teacher Leadership Today
- On the Shoulders of Giants
- Teacher in a Strange Land
- Teach Moore
- The Tempered Radical
- The Educated Reporter
- Taking Note
- Character Education Partnership Blog
- Why I Teach