SCHOOL MATTERS: Giving Parents Access to Teacher Ratings: What’s There to Hide?

SCHOOL MATTERS: Giving Parents Access to Teacher Ratings: What’s There to Hide?

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How well is my child doing in school? Is he improving? Is she falling behind?

All parents want to know how well their child’s teacher is doing at improving students’ reading and math skills. Yet providing parents information on teacher performance has long been taboo.

However, the recent decision by the Los Angeles Times to release data on how well 6,000 teachers in Los Angeles Unified have improved student performance signifies the crumbling of this information wall. For the first time, with a click of a mouse, parents can view how effective their child’s teacher is at raising student achievement in English and math.

The Times has acquired and analyzed data linking teachers to student achievement using a method known as “value added.” This approach calculates how much “value” a teacher adds over time by looking at the growth in student test scores in each teacher’s classroom. “Value-added” analysis helps answer questions such as: Do children in a teacher’s classroom make academic progress? How does a student’s academic growth compare to that of students taught by other teachers? Armed with “value-added” data, parents can better assess teacher performance, and thereby more effectively advocate for their child’s success in school.

Numerous concerns have been voiced about publishing value-added data in the Times. Some argue that value-added analyses rely too much on standardized test results, which leads teachers to focus instruction on tested subjects alone. Others note that parents will want their child transferred to the classroom of a more effective teacher, and those requests could cause headaches for school administrators.

It’s true that the approach used by the Times looks only at student achievement in English and math. But the reality is that parents send their children to school to learn how to read, write, and perform math at grade level. With millions of students in California performing below grade level in English and math – particularly students of color -- parents deserve the right to know how well their child’s teacher has done in helping improve achievement in English and math over the years.

We know that the most important school-based factor in raising achievement and improving student outcomes is the effectiveness of a child’s classroom teacher. Preliminary findings by the Times show that 8,000 third-to-fifth-graders in Los Angeles Unified were assigned to one of the district’s least effective English and math teachers for two years in a row. Research shows that when a child has an ineffective teacher, especially for three consecutive terms, achievement declines. And even if that child is assigned later on to a series of highly effective teachers, their impact is not enough to make up for lost ground.

Because of these stakes, the type of data published by the Times should be both transparent and easily available to teachers, school administrators, and parents. Teachers deserve to know how well they are doing their job. School administrators should know which teachers are struggling and need more help.

Of course, the use of value-added data alone will not solve our education crisis. A single score should not be the sole indicator of a teacher’s effectiveness, but it is a critically important indicator—one that teachers, school leaders, and parents all want and need to access. Keeping this information under wraps does not serve anyone, especially not the parents of students of color and students in poverty. In this information age, it is vital to provide parents with the teacher effectiveness data in order to better advocate for their children’s educational success.


Arun Ramanathan, Ed.D. is executive director of Education Trust-West.
 

Comments

 
Anonymous

Posted Sep 5 2010

No, parents don't go to school to see how their child's teacher is doing, but to learn how their child is doing. They don't want a report card on the teacher, they want a report card on their child.

Dr. A., do you have children?

Anonymous

Posted Sep 5 2010

How about measuring administrators on how many times they remove a teacher or staff member due to egregious incompetence? I have seen people who NEVER come to work on time, who file leave papers sporadically, teachers who have no academic ability, and others who file legal documents with end dates whenever they choose to get to it maintain their jobs for years and years. As I was too often being required to cover for people in these categories, I finally resigned.

Anonymous

Posted Sep 5 2010

Dr.A is a hired union buster and charter school advocate. With no experience in teaching he clings on to the latest fads on how to rate teachers no matter how scientifically inaccurate they are. He is all about the $$$. He has never spent thousands of $ on his students while earning in $35K a year. HE HAS NEVER HAD STUDENTS!

He is a spoiled son of rich parents that seeks to root out any chance someone from a lower caste will have to improve their lot in life. By destroying teaching as a profession and ending public schools he will ensure the "untouchables" stay in their place. He will then take a job with Gates, Broad or Ford for helping them turn education into the largest private business sector in the US.

Anonymous

Posted Sep 5 2010

Arun Ramanathan, have you ever actually taught? Somehow I get the idea that you're another Ed.D who has never spent extensive time teaching in a classroom.

In other words, I find it difficult to believe anything you're writing.

Anonymous

Posted Sep 5 2010

Arun Ramanathan, have you ever actually taught? Somehow I get the idea that you're another Ed.D who has never spent extensive time teaching in a classroom.

In other words, I find it difficult to believe anything you're writing.

Anonymous

Posted Sep 5 2010

Reading and math skills are among many, many reasons that I send my children to school, and among the last that I ask about when I talk to my children and their teachers. Furthermore, as a teacher, I promise you that I don't need lame, narrow, ambiguous, biased, bubble tests to see how my students are doing - especially when half my students don't really care about those tests. I work with my students every day, monitoring every up and down of their performance, giving detailed feedback, pushing them further than they think they can go, and nurturing them at the same time. You seem to have no clue about how unimportant these tests are - except to people in politics and policy.

Anonymous

Posted Sep 6 2010

I'm trying to add a thumbs down, and it won't register. So just be aware that there should be another one on top of the 120% that showed when I first read this.

Narrow, bubble-in tests that don't take into account a child's family and community circumstances simply do not provide a gauge of teacher quality. It's either ignorant or dishonest to claim that they do, and neither ignorance nor dishonesty is acceptable when coming from the executive director of Education Trust-West. For shame.

Anonymous

Posted Sep 6 2010

First of all, Dr. Ramanathan, the CST was never designed to be used as a measure of teacher effectiveness. Hell, it's not even a particularly effective measure of student learning. Yet you insist that this highly misleading data should not only be used to dictate how effective a teacher I am, but that it should also be released to the public. I'm not certain of your background, but it sounds as if you've forgotten what it's like in the trenches. Perhaps working your way higher and higher into the Ivory Tower at the Education Trust - West has led you to believe that you now know more than those of us in the classrooms every day.

We fight student complacency, cuts to student intervention programs, parents who can't or won't support their children's academic growth and an ever-growing chorus from politicians and even some "white collar" educators -- yourself and Arne Duncan included -- that teachers only want the status quo; that we somehow care more about ourselves than we do our students. Yet we're treated as if all we have to do is walk into a classroom and teach well; as if all students are willing, able and prepared to learn at the highest levels each and every day.

By the way... I notice your website also advocates eliminated the use of seniority when it comes to layoffs. Interesting.

Anonymous

Posted Sep 19 2010

economically advantaged kids score better than poor kids. That is not the fault of the teacher. I work for a rich district where kids get to travel the country and have tutoring. Of course it might seem that the teachers in a rich area do better......there are too many factors involved. As a teacher I have NO other option than to teach to the test...which means boring, rote, fragmented lessons for children.....I either teach to the test or get fired....perhaps then, the tests are the problem. We need to start with hiring effective administrators that know how to assess good teachers. I get observed 5 times a year in 10 month period. This is absolutely obsurd and costly. If I am effective for 10 years ina row I have to keep getting observed...I am never considered a professional in my field. That is disrecpectful and an attempt to dismatle the teaching profession. I doubt you have ever taught ina classroom or ever been put through the ringer the way we public school teachers are. It's easy to blame the teacher for everything....but the fact is MOST of the people dominating education today have never been in a classroom or even have their kids in public schools. I have no respect for what you have to say.

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