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as she has done many times before. The occasion this time is the NY Post making a bit issue of the supposedly worst teacher in the city.  Linda has written on this subject, either by herself, or in conjunction with other experts on education, several times in the past few years.

Linda, who is a personal friend and professional colleague, has an important new piece on the subject of value-added methodology in Education Week, the most important single publication in the field of education, which you can - and should - read here.

Linda Darling-Hammond acknowledges that she - like many others, originally had high hopes for the use of value added evaluations of teachers.  But now it is clear to her, as it is to many have examined it closely, that it does not live up to their hopes.  As she writes (and you might want to follow the links)

I was once bullish on the idea of using “value-added methods” for assessing teacher effectiveness. I have since realized that these measures, while valuable for large-scale studies, are seriously flawed for evaluating individual teachers, and that rigorous, ongoing assessment by teaching experts serves everyone better. Indeed, reviews the National Research Council, the RAND Corp., and the Educational Testing Service have all concluded that value-added estimates of teacher effectiveness should not be used to make high-stakes decisions about teachers.

Please keep reading to understand WHY value-added should not be used for these purposes.

Let me quote the heart of this post:  

First, test-score gains—even using very fancy value-added models—reflect much more than an individual teacher’s effort, including students’ health, home life, and school attendance, and schools’ class sizes, curriculum materials, and administrative supports, as well as the influence of other teachers, tutors, and specialists. These factors differ widely in rich and poor schools.
Second, teachers’ ratings are highly unstable: They differ substantially across classes, tests, and years.

Teachers who rank at the bottom one year are more likely to rank above average the following year than to rate poorly again. The same holds true for teachers at the top. If the scores truly measured a teacher’s ability, these wild swings would not occur.

Third, teachers who rate highest on the low-level multiple-choice tests currently in use are often not those who raise scores on assessments of more-challenging learning. Pressure to teach to these fill-in-the-bubble tests will further reduce the focus on research, writing, and complex problem-solving, areas where students will need to compete with their peers in high-achieving countries.

But, most importantly, these test scores largely reflect whom a teacher teaches, not how well they teach. In particular, teachers show lower gains when they have large numbers of new English-learners and students with disabilities than when they teach other students. This is true even when statistical methods are used to “control” for student characteristics.

Unfortunately, we have seen an increasing emphasis on Value-added as if it were some king of magic bullet.

It is not.

Read Linda's article.

Pass it on.

Maybe it is not too late to save American public education, although I have my doubts.

Originally posted to teacherken on Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 06:23 PM PST.

Also republished by Education Alternatives and Teachers Lounge.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (21+ / 0-)

    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

    by teacherken on Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 06:23:24 PM PST

  •  She's Stanford (9+ / 0-)

    Therefore elite.

    Therefore an enemy of all that is good and holy.

    In all seriousness, I am glad to see Professor Darling-Hammond come around.  I suspect her (failed) experience with a charter school right here in my own neighborhood, despite all the resources that the Stanford School of Education brought to bear, may have given her some new insights into what it really takes to successfully teach poor children as a teacher.

    And it ain't union busting and crushing the morale of successful teachers through evaluations that someone made up in some free-market think tank thousands of miles away.

    If you don't stand for something, you will go for anything. Visit Maat's Feather

    by shanikka on Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 06:32:58 PM PST

  •  Thanks for this post Ken (5+ / 0-)

    However I want to question this:

    Maybe it is not too late to save American public education, although I have my doubts.
    I don't think we're ever going to see a clear line when American public education ends and when something else [?] begins. It's more complicated than that.

    What I've witnessed in third world countries is a blurring of the lines between universal access and limiting services to keep the upper classes from paying their fair share -- a sort of dance about keeping the masses satisfied while the wealthy get to have their way. In other words, universal access never officially ends, it just gets difficult to discern when universal access matters in terms of a good quality education.

    •  I am discouraged enough (8+ / 0-)

      that I am considering totally walking away at the end of this year

      Diane Ravitch tells me she plans to keep fighting until she breathes her last breath.

      Linda Darling-Hammond acknowledges the reality of my concern, but insists she will still keep trying.

      Makes it hard to walk away, eh?

      I really hope this post gets some visibility because the issue is so important.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 06:48:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Bless Diane (8+ / 0-)

        And Jonathan Kozol. And Deb Meier. And Linda D-H. And so many who are committed to the cause of a right to universal access to quality education. They are an inspiration to us all. That said, I would never ever blame a committed educator such as yourself for making a personal commitment to walk away from the classroom. It's personal and private. All we can do is thank you for your service and wish you the very best.

      •  thnx for the link to the article I put it on my FB (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        wall for others to read and it really does need more eyes.

        I hope you do remain in the fight to keep education about education, instead of for profit and for creating rubber stamp students.

        without the ants the rainforest dies

        by aliasalias on Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 10:31:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Hard to walk away, (0+ / 0-)

        but at some point you have to attend to your own health, peace of mind and quality of life.

        It's a tough time to be fighting the good fight, for whatever cause is topmost for each of us.  My hat's off to you for your dedication to public education, which, along with the First Amendment is the foundation of our diverse and and just and free society.

  •  As I wrote yesterday, (5+ / 0-)

    VAM is quackery disguised as science.

    This year Michigan raised the cut scores on our state tests. I calculated the percentage of students passing the reading tests for the last six years using both the old and new test scores. Of course because the score needed to pass was higher, the percentage passing using the new cut scores was always lower.

    What was noteworthy was increase or decrease in the percentage of students passing. Last year, for instance, using the old cut scores the percentage passing declined. Using the cut scores the percentage passing increased. In three of the six years, using the exact same test, the results were contradictory. One could flip a coin and obtain the same consistency. The year to year conclusions were essentially meaningless.

    Keep in mind that these were cumulative results. For individual classes, with a smaller sample, the results were often more contradictory.

    VAM is junk science. And we should evaluate teachers based on these test results? Absolute stupidity.

    A proud member of the Professional Left since 1967.

    by slatsg on Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 07:56:17 PM PST

  •  My daughter attends a small school (3+ / 0-)

    with a very stable population of teachers and kids.

    When you look at the test scores, what you see is noise. You don't see that one teacher is consistently better or even that one class is consistently better. What you see is that one year a particular class does well and then another year that same class does less well.

    When you're dealing with classes of 20, each child is 5% of the class score. When I came on to the site council and we had a chart in our document with test scores, I changed it from percentages at each level to absolute student count in each level. It made the information much clearer - because that year there was a class of 14 and a class of 28 going through the school, so comparing percentages was misleading. In one case, 14% of students were far below basic. That's alarming. But it was also... 2 students. When you look at it that way, you realize the tyranny of trying to do statistics with small numbers.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 09:56:55 PM PST

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