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Teacher Evaluations: Publicly Naming Educators Tied To Performance Scores Hinder Reform, Study Says

Teacher Eval

First Posted: 11/14/11 12:10 PM ET Updated: 11/14/11 01:13 PM ET

In a departure from recent efforts to publicly name teachers tied to the performance -- and projected performance -- of their students, a new report says the practice actually undermines efforts to improve public schools.

The study by the Center for American Progress notes that linking teachers' names to value-added estimates subjects educators to a number of consequences, like parents pressuring principals to reassign their children. The CAP also warns that value-added estimates should never be the only factor in making decisions about teachers.

"The public identification of teachers with value-added estimates will undermine initiatives to improve schools by hamstringing efforts to make actual classroom performance the basis for decisions affecting the career prospects of currently practicing teachers," Diana Epstein, senior analyst at the CAP and co-author of the report, said in a statement Monday. "In this case, less disclosure is more reform."

Value-added analysis calculates a teacher's effectiveness in improving student performance on standardized tests -- based on past test scores. The forecasted figure is compared to the student's actual scores, and the difference is considered the "value added," or subtracted, by the teachers.

CAP's report discusses cases in Los Angeles, where newspapers released teacher-performance ratings to the public. In New York, a back-and-forth between the New York City Department of Education and the teachers' union led to an appellate judge's September decision that the department must release the names and value-added estimates for the city's 12,000 teachers.

"When balancing the privacy interests at stake against the public interest in disclosure of the information ... we conclude that the requested reports should be disclosed," the court wrote, according to The Wall Street Journal. "Indeed, the reports concern information of a type that is of compelling interest to the public, namely, the proficiency of public employees in the performance of their job duties."

Publicly identifying teachers tied to value estimates could "slow, distort, or cripple efforts to implement and refine new performance-evaluation systems," the study's authors write. And while releasing the information increases transparency, it could also make teachers more defensive and less willing to use evaluation results for self-reflection and improvement, according to the study. The tension could also create unease and strife among teachers, school administrators and parents that hinder student learning.

But that doesn't mean value-added measurements shouldn't be used at all.

Parents should be made aware of a teacher's effectiveness in educating their child, but it should be based on a more rounded evaluation, not just the value-added calculations, the authors write.

"This is consistent with our view that value-added measures should be a significant portion -- but only one component -- of an evaluation that includes multiple measures of effectiveness."

The researchers say that value-added scores should be made available to researchers and to schools. Districts can use the measurements in accountability systems that could aggregate them into larger sets of data that can be publicly released to show distribution of effective teachers. Publicly naming individuals tied to scores, however, will only lead to conflict and undermines the need for collaboration among those reforming the education system, according to the report.

The CAP research echoes a separate report by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, released last month, that says fair and effective ways of assessing teachers is key to student achievement. The paper, titled "Getting It Right," notes that there are limitations in value-added analysis given particular grades and subjects, and that those scores should only be one element among many in assessing teacher performance and effectiveness.

The CAP and National Board's guidelines come amid nationwide debate on how best to evaluate and reward teachers -- and to what extent student performance should be taken into account. At least 26 states require teacher assessments that factor in student test results, and some states like New York have been slammed with lawsuits by teachers' unions over evaluation regulations.

This summer, the National Education Association, the country's largest teachers' union, adopted for the first time new teacher evaluation guidelines that factor in student performance.

Quick Poll

Should teacher value-added data be made public?

Yes! It's necessary for transparency.

No, but it should be made available to researchers and schools.

Not at all! It's not a reliable metric.

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Filed by Emmeline Zhao  |