A study released this week confirms what CTA has been saying since the Los Angeles Times first published teacher rankings based on standard test scores two years ago: that the Times methodology was flawed and the resulting rankings were of little value in actually rating or predicting a teacher’s effectiveness. The study by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice calls out the Times for its analysis and subsequent overreaching conclusions about who is a good or bad teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
CTA members were appalled when the Times decided it would be the new arbiter of effective teaching in Los Angeles, and its decision to publish teacher names and Times-assigned rankings was irresponsible. The new study not only points why the Times was wrong, but it reinforces concerns CTA and others have been pointing out about using test scores to rate teachers long before the Times started this project.
Since No Child Left Behind was passed over a decade ago, the emphasis on standardized testing has gotten completely out of control. What was once a valuable tool to help teachers determine how well their students were learning has become a high stakes (high stakes for everyone except the students actually taking the test, and most of them know it) performance measure on which funding and even sometimes jobs now depend.
Standardized tests cover only a fraction of the content taught by teachers. English and math scores don’t tell us much about how a student will do in science or social studies, and even those scores are just a snapshot of where a student was on a particular day in relation to that particular test. The tests were never designed to measure teacher effectiveness, but they’ve been hijacked for a whole new purpose so in many cases they are now viewed as more about the teachers than they are about the students.
The Times attempted to make their reliance on test scores more fair or accurate by using a “value-added” model that tries to take into account factors like a student’s previous testing history. But the value-added concept in teacher evaluation has been questioned or debunked
by many researchers, as there are too many unaccounted for factors, including the types of students a teacher receives over a period of years. The Great Lakes study reasserts that a value-added ranking is of little or no help to parents.
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