Sunday, August 15, 2010

Value Added Trap

I am going to try to be good. Very good. Gonna write about Whitney Tilson, though briefly, but the bawdy comments will stay inside of me.

Last night, at 10 23 PM EDT Whitney blabbered:
This is breakthrough journalism: the Times obtained math and English “scores for the academic years 2002-03 through 2008-09 from LAUSD under the California Public Records Act. Included were 1.5 million scores from 603,500 students. Students' names were not included, but their teachers' names were.” The Times then hired “a senior economist and education researcher at Rand Corp. to conduct a "value-added" analysis of the data” and is now publishing the data, including in the near future (I hope you’re sitting down) “the performance of more than 6,000 third- through fifth-grade teachers for whom reliable data were available.” In other words, parents (and anyone else) will be able to see which teachers are most and least effective.
How much you wanna bet Whitney is yet again lacking facts?

What got Whitney all googly ga-ga was an article in today's Los Angeles Times Magazine. In it, intrepid reporters, .

Yet year after year, one fifth-grade class learns far more than the other down the hall. The difference has almost nothing to do with the size of the class, the students or their parents.

Is that a fact? You know this for sure? It has absolutely nothing to do with the class, the students, or the parents? Is it possible that it just so happens that one class has smarter students than the other? What are the sizes of the respective classes?

With Miguel Aguilar, students consistently have made striking gains on state standardized tests, many of them vaulting from the bottom third of students in Los Angeles schools to well above average, according to a Times analysis.

We all know what just happened here in New York about test scores. Maybe Mr Aguilar just stopped teaching and all he did was test prep. Maybe, and I am not making any accusations, Mr Aguilar cheated?

Which teacher a child gets is usually an accident of fate, in which the progress of some students is hindered while others just steps away thrive.

Yeah, it is all on the teacher. Nothing to do with the atmosphere at home.

The Times obtained seven years of math and English test scores from the Los Angeles Unified School District.

How were this obtained? Who authorized it? Were parents notified about it in advance? Is this legal? Aren't tests, education, students not supposed to be shared unless the parent gives consent?

Each student's performance is compared with his or her own in past years, which largely controls for outside influences often blamed for academic failure: poverty, prior learning and other factors.

How is it controlled for outside influences? Please. Share. Was each family interviewed, visited? Was there a questionnaire sent out?

the method has been increasingly embraced by education leaders and policymakers across the country, including the Obama administration.

Just because it has been embraced doesn't make them right, or know what they are talking about.

Contrary to popular belief, the best teachers were not concentrated in schools in the most affluent neighborhoods, nor were the weakest instructors bunched in poor areas.

Well, duh! But this runs counter to what Joel Klein has been spewing for years. Joel, are you reading this?

Other studies of the district have found that students' race, wealth, English proficiency or previous achievement level played little role in whether their teacher was effective.

You have got to be kidding! Which studies? Where? By whom? Cite sources. I had to do this in college when I wrote a paper, why are these reporters allowed not to? Cite one source please!!!

Many teachers and union leaders are skeptical of the value-added approach, saying standardized tests are flawed and do not capture the more intangible benefits of good instruction. Some also fear teachers will be fired based on the arcane calculations of statisticians who have never worked in a classroom.

Say AMEN brother!

The respected National Academy of Sciences weighed in last October, saying the approach was promising but should not be used in "high stakes" decisions — firing teachers, for instance — without more study

OK, I agree with what NAS said, but explain how NAS has a horse in this race. Cite the study.

teachers must have had enough students for the results to be reliable.

Seems this is contradictory as to comparing Mr Aguilar's class to others.

Nevertheless, value-added analysis offers the closest thing available to an objective assessment of teachers. And it might help in resolving the greater mystery of what makes for effective teaching, and whether such skills can be taught.


But the surest sign of a teacher's effectiveness was the engagement of his or her students — something that often was obvious from the expressions on their faces.

There of course is some truth to this statement, but boring, does not mean ineffective or incompetent.

On this day, Aguilar had invited a student to the board to divide two fractions — a topic on the upcoming state exam.

Teaching to the test? Seems like it. But what was the problem? Was it being taught in isolation? Just being able to get facts straight does not convey an understanding of dividing fractions.

John Smith, speaking in a slow cadence, he led his class in reciting a problem aloud twice. He then called on a student slouched in the back. The boy got the answer wrong. "Not so much," Smith said dryly.

Not so much what? What was the problem? What was the response? Is that all John Smith had to say? What is the context of his quote?

It was only 11a.m., and already it had been a tough day: Three of Smith's students were sitting in the principal's office because of disruptive behavior. All were later transferred permanently to other classrooms. In an interview days later, Smith acknowledged that he had struggled at times to control his class.

What grade is this? Why are the students in the principal's office? What is the back story with these students? Why John Smith are you speaking to the press?

How much students are learning is rarely taken into account, and more than 90% of educators receive a passing grade, according to a survey of 12 districts in four states by the New Teacher Project, a New York-based nonprofit.

UGH!!!! New Teacher Project. Please. I doubt TNTP is the most objective source to be quoted here.

Almost all sides in the debate over public education agree that the evaluation system is broken.

Who on the side of good says this?

if a third-grade student ranked in the 60th percentile among all district third-graders, he would be expected to rank similarly in fourth grade. If he fell to the 40th percentile, it would suggest that his teacher had not been very effective, at least for him. If he sprang into the 80th percentile, his teacher would appear to have been highly effective.

Must all the variables that can affect this be listed? Too much, too little time.

Any single student's performance in a given year could be due to other factors — a child's attention could suffer during a divorce, for example.

Could be due? But at the very beginning of the article this was written; The difference has almost nothing to do with the size of the class, the students or their parents.

The approach, pioneered by economists in the 1970s

Yeah, dorky economists wearing pocket protectors and Brylcreem and who were beaten up in the playground.

In an interview last week, A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, was adamant that value-added should not be used to evaluate teachers, citing concerns about its reliance on test scores and its tendency to encourage "teaching to the test." But Duffy said the data could provide useful feedback.

Don't do it!!! It's a trap!!!!!!

Even at Third Street Elementary in Hancock Park, one of the most well-regarded schools in the district, Karen Caruso stands out for her dedication and professional accomplishments. A teacher since 1984, she was one of the first in the district to be certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. In her spare time, she attends professional development workshops and teaches future teachers at UCLA. She leads her school's teacher reading circle. In her purse last spring, she carried a book called "Strategies for Effective Teaching." Third Street Principal Suzie Oh described Caruso as one of her most effective teachers. But seven years of student test scores suggest otherwise. In the Times analysis, Caruso, who teaches third grade, ranked among the bottom 10% of elementary school teachers in boosting students' test scores. On average, her students started the year at a high level — above the 80th percentile — but by the end had sunk 11 percentile points in math and 5 points in English. Caruso said she was surprised and disappointed by her results, adding that her students did well on periodic assessments and that parents seemed well-satisfied. "Ms. Caruso was an amazing teacher," said Rita Gasparetti, whose daughter was in Caruso's class a few years ago. "She really worked with Clara, socially and academically." Still, Caruso said the numbers were important and, like several other teachers interviewed, wondered why she hadn't been shown such data before by anyone in the district.

This is wrong. They damned a teacher, shamed a teacher, and like an abused spouse she bought into their judgement of her as not effective.

Call me jaded, but I smell a rat in this story. A very, very, Broad rat. Unfortunately yet again we see reporters doing the shilling for the school districts without getting the other side of the story and leaving out facts and taking things out of context.


Anonymous said...

How is Tilson qualified to say ANYTHING about public education??

Is he an educator?

Unknown said...

Wouldn't teachers have grounds for libel or slander? These are people making judgments with little foundation. I've heard parents tell students not to worry about "the test". Therefore, how can you judge a teacher's performance on someone else's actions?