Thursday, September 2, 2010

LA Times and Posts Teacher Evaluations

The LA Times recently published their own ranking of all 6000 teachers in the LA Unified School District. The scores were based on a "value add" concept- basically, if Johnny came in reading at 83% of the standard, and left reading at 90% of the standard, they attribute the gain to the teacher. Likewise, if Johnny's score drops, they assume that was the teacher as well.

I like the value add approach to evaluations. It's fair- it looks at where someone started, and assess the impact of the teacher. Unions often object that a principal can load a class with below average students, thus hurting the teacher's evaluation. Value Add means that we measure the teacher's achievements given where they started- who were the kids that were in the classroom.

During the campaign last fall, I spoke out in favor of this approach, and I still believe it would be a great way to identify our best teachers. There are details to work out of course, but I believe it's worth discussing and implementing. I would advocate for using this type of data to identify our top performers, and I would actually support some sort of merit-based bonus for the very best of our staff. We have some *fabulous* teachers in our district. Even amongst the great staff that we have, there are some true standouts. I'd be in favor of recognizing those who are so talented at inspiring our kids.

Having said that, I'm not a fan of what the LA Times did. Imagine if, at your place of work, every employee evaluation was posted on the wall. Imagine further, that the evaluation didn't necessarily conform to what you'd been told you'd be evaluated on. It's pretty easy to see this wouldn't go down well. Evaluations are confidential. When we assign an engineer to a project, the client doesn't get to look over their performance reviews.

I understand the spirit of the LA Times- they're trying to create an active debate about an important topic. I hope that folks see past the tactic and focus on the content- that it's important to evaluate teachers at least in part on how well their students learn.

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