Don't Rate Individual Teachers Publicly

It's one thing to try and score teachers based on their effectiveness helping kids learn using test scores and statistical models controlling for poverty with the intention of using the data to try and target training, support improvement, or assess policies surrounding assignment and distribution of teachers across a district.  It's quite another thing to release those scores to the public or go to court to get them and publish them.  Rating teachers individually and releasing those numbers to the public seems to me like an invasion of privacy, like sharing someone's cholesterol level or credit rating, or annual review.  Nobody does that with policemen or firefighters or even, really, with doctors.  But that's what's happened twice now, in LA and New York City, accompanied by the usual arguments about the public's right to know and newspapers' ability to put numbers in context and let readers decide on their own.  I don't buy any of it, really -- though as many of you know I'm not anti-testing or particularly protective of teachers.

I hope nothing like that happens in Chicago somewhere down the road.  I don't think the ratings are accurate enough at the teacher level.  I don't think that there's much to be gained by making the ratings public at the individual level, other than selling papers.  Reformers including Wendy Kopp, Michelle Rhee, and Bill Gates have all come out against the practice.  Gates called it a "capricious exercise in public shaming."  The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates described "something unsavory [about] releasing admittedly flawed data, and then lecturing the public on its need to exercise caution." The NYT reported that the release of data there had become a rallying cry against the city (Teacher Ratings Produce a Rallying Cry for the Union ).


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  • "Nobody does that with policemen or firefighters or even, really, with doctors."

    Well, they should, and yes, with teachers, too. Privacy is important when it comes to matters that *should* be private. I'd never advocate exposing, say, a teacher's credit score to public scrutiny, because it's no one else's business and not particularly relevent to job performance.

    But those who are entrusted with the well-being of many people--our children, in this particular case--needs to be answerable to those upon whose lives they can have major effects. If they don't want their job performance under public scrutiny, then they should be working in fields where it has less impact on the public. If the tools used to measure performance are inadequate, then by all means they should be improved, but don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

    It's unfortunate that schools (and other institutions) have become old-boys' clubs where the chances of an employee with seniority who consistently underperforms actually getting pink-slipped is close to nil, while those with less time in the system but who are better at their jobs are still the first to be let go. But as long as that remains the state of affairs, we can't be sure that our health, safety, and well-being are in trustworthy hands if we don't have access to their performance data.

    Put more simply? If my child winds up in the class of a rotten teacher, you'd better believe I want to know about it so I can have her pulled.

  • In reply to Ambular:

    Leadership in schools is a major problem. When corruption, incompetence, and cronyism rule the day it just makes it more difficult for teachers in the classrooms.

    Still, based on the impact on society shouldn't investment bankers and hedge fund managers also be held publicly and visibly accountable? Not like that will happen. Heck, all they did was damn near crashed the world economy.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Here, here! While we're at it, I wish there was a way to rate the parents of the kids at the schools. This past month a senior citizen who is running a scouts program brought about 30 kids to perform for a senior housing group. Not one parent was in the group to help out. Those parents deserve an "F" in parenting.

  • In reply to Danie:

    An "F"? Just for not helping? Even if their kids are healthy, staying out of trouble, and getting good grades? Could YOU stand up to such scrutiny?

    P.S. It's "Hear, hear!", not "Here, here!"

  • In reply to Ambular:

    Ok, but those scores won't give you that information. When I have students who go from a 99% to a 97%, as scores in the 90's tend to fluctuate year to year, my value added will be negative. In fact that very system, as I understand it, will likely rate some of the best teachers in the city, as the worst.

    Also, don't assume that your teacher is a her or that you have the power to get anyone "pulled." Bad teachers should be remediated and fired, but not based on the metrics that these systems use, they are highly inaccurate, and not based on parents who are on a power trip over something published in the paper. You are smarter than that aren't you?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    "When I have students who go from a 99% to a 97%, as scores in the 90's tend to fluctuate year to year, my value added will be negative."

    Perhaps you don't understand "value-added." The idea is that you as a teacher help your students gain a year's growth during the year that you teach them. If students are showing less than a year's growth (or negative growth, as you write), after being in your classes for a year, then why would a parent want their child in your classes?

    You are smarter than that, aren't you?

  • In reply to Danaidh:

    Really, Danaidh? If your kid is scores a 97% on a test, 2 points lower than the previous year, when she essentially aced it, you're going blame your child's teacher? For the 97%? Really? For your child getting 3 questions out of 100 wrong on a single test? Even the most brilliant 7th graders, for example, would have trouble focussing enough to literally miss no questions, consistently, on standardized tests that for all intents and purposes are entirely irrelevant to their day-to-day lives. The thought that a parent would be evaluating the intellectual and academic growth of their child based on 2 percentage point fluctuations at the very high end of a single test (or, in this case, 2 tests) is troubling...

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Please spare us the condescending adult-to-baby, “perhaps you don’t understand value-added’ talk. Purveyors purport that value added metrics measure academic growth; statisticians don’t.

    The National Research Council and the National Academy of Education understand value-added, and they recommend ‘no’.

    “there is a great deal of measurement error in the test results fed into these models, which in turn induces substantial uncertainty in the resulting estimates.”
    “Any evaluation method leads to implicit causal interpretations. When a school does not make adequate yearly progress under the status model of No Child Left Behind, most people infer that this is an indication of the school’s lack of effectiveness. With a little reflection, however, many will come to understand that a school serving a disadvantaged community faces a greater challenge in making adequate yearly progress than does a school serving an advantaged community. That is, many people understand that there are limits to what can be inferred from status results. Because value-added models involve sophisticated statistical machinery and the results explicitly attribute components of achievement gains to certain schools or teachers, people are more likely to accept the causal interpretations.”

    In other words, bad idea!

  • Ambular, do you really believe that a test given once a year can demonstrate what children have learned over the entire course of the year or whether or not a teacher did a good job? Did you know that 860 universities, including many ivy league schools, have stopped requiring ACT or SAT tests because they are such poor predictors of success in college? What are better predictors? Grades and class rank. What if you were the teacher and on the day of the tests there was major construction or lawn cutting going on right outside your window. There are too many variables to list for why a child, or a classroom of children, might do poorly on any given day. I am all for good teacher evaluations, but a one-shot yearly test is neither a good indicator of what children have learned or what teachers have taught. Finally, as for the myth that young teachers are getting bumped due to tenure, you better take another look. Older, more experienced teachers across Chicago and the rest of the country are being laid off by the thousands and being replaced by less expensive young teachers. Time to do your homework, Ambular!

  • In reply to district299reader:

    If grades and class rank are better predictors, then those should be publically available. Are they?

    As for doing my homework, does talking to actual teachers about the state of affairs in their own schools not count?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Act scores are not used because colleges want get around
    reverse discrimination law suites.

  • Holding teachers accountable is not really what this is all about. Teachers can and have been held accountable by principals, colleagues, parents, and students.

    What this is about is making high stakes decisions - hiring, firing, and salary distribution - based on wildly inaccurate and unreliable standardized tests.

    For example, CPS wants to use VAM to assess the value teachers add to students. New York city does this and recently published the results. The confidence interval for each rating is between 35% and 53%.

    Using an assessment for hiring and firing decisions with that kind unreliability is absolutely ridiculous. And, please, don't tell me these exams only count for 40% or 50% of evaluations. A failure on that test portion - even with stellar marks on everything else - would mean termination, all based on incredibly unreliable VAM.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I think if we release test score results by teacher, then it makes sense to release individual student scores and put them in the paper. Along with all the behavior reports filed. Because as a parent, I understand while teacher quality is super important, so is the achievement, motivation and behavior of all the other students in the class. If a class or school has too many kids cussing out teachers, refusing to do homework or lagging behind, I want to be able to pull my child out of that school and place them in an environment more appropriate for motivated and hard working students.

  • Rahm Emmanuel says 25% of the city’s public students “are never going to amount to anything” and he won’t “throw resources at them”
    Of course he denies it, but we all know he said it

    And why does Tim Cawley need CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler to spin-doc his statements that CPS would ‘not put repair dollars into a school with ‘a chance’ of closure in five or 10 years”? And why won’t Tim Cawley return telephone calls to reporters seeking clarification?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    "Rahm Emmanuel says 25% of the city’s public students “are never going to amount to anything” and he won’t “throw resources at them” Of course he denies it, but we all know he said it."

    I've heard several people refer to this supposed Rahm remark, but cannot find a credible source anywhere. How is that we all know he said it? (It certainly doesn't sound like something he'd say.)

  • In reply to Danaidh:

    Neither can we find a credible source to deny it…

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Maybe he said it, maybe he didn’t…but isn’t that what most people have been thinking all along?

  • He needs her because he has no humility. Power does corrupt. You'd think he'd shut up after getting a residency pass, the same thing many have been fired for. He has no idea of the monster he's dealing with. Tiny AUSL did not prepare him for this. keep learning Timmy.

  • And
    Is anybody pissed that Chicago tax cash is now going to subsidize IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, Verizon, and guess who? Tim-Motor-Crawley-Ola!

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Actually, these technology companies are really subsidizing CPS and its students.

  • If you are going to rate a teacher by the once a year test scores, or even the Scantron (which will be NWEA next school year), then do not compare those scores with the last year’s class and do not compare them to what some admin thinks they should be (NCLB to the exceeds). Rate by how each student gained within the year in the classroom at present. Look at how the scores were raised in Scantron from September to the May test. Look at the last year ISAT and now.
    While ELL students were super low, look at how much they gained in one year. It is the gains you want to see individually. Comparing last year’s class to this year’s class is apples and oranges.

  • In reply to ladyfair:

    You are basically describing "value added measurement (metrics)", or VAM, that a commenter above touched on. For a good description of VAM, check out the Linda Darling-Hammond article posted on Substance today. Very good post whether you are familiar with VAM or not. We will all be familiar with it soon.

  • What is the point of rating anybody or anything with such a dismal graduation rate and percentage that go on to higher education?

    The entire system gets a failing grade, and it always will. The government should not be in the business of education, nor in the auto or insurance or health business. Lost thoughts on many who teach and administer at CPS, I am sure.

    Hey, if you make your living off of other peoples taxes you have to expect and respect the "public's right to know".

    When do you bail from the Titanic?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Richard Davis:

    When do I bail from the Titanic? When I've found a lifeboat for all the kids, first. Until then, I'll stay here and do my best to help them.

  • Value-added teacher ratings invaluable -

  • The Tribune does not mention the NYC value added margin of error - somewhere between 35% - 53% depending on the subject area.

    And this is what Illinois reformers want to use for determining who gets hired or fired? Wow. Talk about disconnected from reality.

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