Nowhere to Hide

The LA Times used Freedom of Information requests to obtain student achievement data linked to teachers in LA unified.  The students’ names were removed, but not the teachers. The paper then hired researchers at RAND to analyze the data and calculate the value-added of individual teachers.  And then the paper published all of the results.  WOW!

It’s no longer possible to hide the fact that there are some awful teachers who continue receiving paychecks and depriving kids of an education.  School officials have had these data for years and never used them, never tried to identify who were the best and worst teachers, and never tried to remove bad teachers from the profession.  It took a newspaper and a big FOI request.

Now the school district will be forced to do something about those chronically ineffective teachers.  No one is suggesting that analyses of these test scores should be the sole criteria for identifying or removing ineffective teachers.  But it is a start.

This is going to spread.  As long as the data exist, there will be more and more pressure for school systems to actually use the information and develop systems for identifying and removing teachers who can’t teach.

It’s also worth emphasizing that this new reality is a huge accomplishment of No Child Left Behind.  The accountability and choice provisions of NCLB could never work because school systems could never be asked to sanction themselves.  But the one big thing that NCLB accomplished is getting every public school to measure student achievement in grades 3-8 and report results.  NCLB made it so that these data exist so that the LA Times could FOI the results and push schools to act upon it.  NCLB could never get schools to take real action, but the existence of the data could get others to force schools to act.

And what is the reaction of the teachers unions to all of this?  They’ve called for a boycott of the LA Times. As usual, we see how much more they care about protecting incompetent teachers than protecting kids suffering from educational malpractice.

13 Responses to Nowhere to Hide

  1. phillipmarlowe says:

    Value Added Charade?



    Click to access 20104004.pdf

    “If three years of data is used there is about a 25 percent change that a teacher who is “average” would be identified as significantly worse than average, and, under new evaluation systems, perhaps fired.

    *If one year of data is used, there is a 35 percent chance of the same misidentification.”

    “That only a fraction of teachers can even be evaluated this way, generally less than 20%.”

  2. Stuart Buck says:

    Any idea where to find the actual RAND study?

  3. phillipmarlowe says:

    Yes it is just as likely for a child with very little skills in English to learn reading English from the supposedly average effective teacher, as it is for a child with skills in English to learn reading English from the supposedly average effective.

    Based on this absurdity, besides teaching children to read English, we should also teach every child to learn French or another language since according to this logic no prior skills in a language are needed to learn how to read in that language. Just bring in the average effective French teachers and at the same time all the children are reading on the 4th grade level in English, they will also be reading in French on a 4th grade level.

    How can anyone believe that absurdity

  4. Stuart Buck says:

    Note, it’s not a “RAND study” as I had said. First footnote: “Richard Buddin is a senior economist at the RAND Corporation. He performed this study as an independent contractor for the Los Angeles Times. The RAND Corporation was not involved in the study or analysis.”

  5. Daniel Earley says:

    That the LA Times would even consider doing this is quite surprising to me. I’m still pinching myself to see if I’m not in some alternate reality, which so far is proving an unreliable test. Might we actually be stuck in the final episode of LOST?

  6. […] years of ignoring the data, LA will be forced to do something about chronically ineffective teachers, writes Jay P. Greene. No one is suggesting that analyses of these test scores should be the sole […]

  7. phillipmarlowe says:

    We all know that students in Finland, Germany, Singapore, Japan, Korea, Taiwan…do very well on international assessments on math, science and reading. Does it mean those countries have the most effective teachers in the world? If we hire those teachers to teach children in LA public schools, do you think those teachers can produce same results?? We all know the answer already. I know these teachers would scream and run back to their countries in three days.

  8. “Now the school district will be forced to do something about those chronically ineffective teachers. ”

    I dunno Jay. The old rule of education politics–if at all possible, do nothing–may win out here.

  9. Eric S. Howard says:

    Not sure if this was an “official” RAND project or not, but going to Richard Buddin’s RAND publication page produces a listing of several white papers I’m assuming were produced with the LA Times obtained student-teacher data, including an article in the Journal of Urban Economic (Vol. 66, pp. 103-115, 2009). Here’s a link to Buddin’s publication list at RAND:

  10. You are probably right, Dan. You usually are.

  11. […] P. Greene, 21st Century Chair in Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, lauded the Times at his eponymous group […]

  12. Shiela says:

    Well, it’s not late to look for the facts and use it.
    This is the first thing we need for reformation.

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