Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Venting the Anger: The Times is still obsessed with Value Added

The L.A. Times think they are the leaders in education reform because of their whole "value added" evaluations of teachers. Basically they compare a student from year to year to see if their is growth. If there is, then the new teacher has value, if not then the teacher didn't add value and is considered a poor teacher.

Now there are many things wrong with this, but I will just hit two off the top of my head. 1) subjects aren't the same from year to year. They are different and get harder. How can you compare an Algebra 1 score to a Geometry score? Totally different subject and different way of thinking. 2) if a student is already advanced and stays advanced, then the teacher didn't add any value to that student and isn't considered a good teacher. 3) teachers don't control who they get in their class! You can get the greatest class one year and the next...oh man.

In fact, the University of Colorado did a study finding errors in the whole value added method.

And yet, the Times fights on. They talked about it so much now L.A. Unified is going to release school rankings using value added data. How ridiculous is this? Well;
The district's ratings, dubbed "Academic Growth Over Time," can send parents a very different signal about a school's performance. Take, for example, 3rd Street Elementary School in Hancock Park, which has an API score of 938, putting it among the highest-scoring schools in the district. Under the new growth measure, 3rd Street is one of the lowest-performing elementary schools in the district.
You don't think it's low because the students are already advanced or proficient? You can't get higher than that. And API score is based on a lot of factors, much coming from the CST scores. So do you want a school to have low scores so they can add "value"? Seems pretty clear to me that this is some backwards thinking...maybe it's just me.

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