The Good, Bad & Ugly of Value-Added Analysis

Assessment, Learning, Teacher Quality

I’m on the road all week — from DC to Oregon to Philadelphia to Oklahoma City — and everywhere I go people seem to be talking about the L.A. Times’ recent expose into the city’s school teachers, and the extent to which individual teachers are either helping students learn — or holding them back.
The conversations are based on the Times’ decision to use value-added analysis, which rates teachers based on their students’ progress on standardized tests from year to year. Thickening the plot, the Times produced this report using seven years of data the school district had — but had never analyzed. As the paper explains: “Value-added analysis offers a rigorous approach. In essence, a student’s past performance on tests is used to project his or her future results. The difference between the prediction and the student’s actual performance after a year is the ‘value’ that the teacher has added or subtracted.”
Because the idea of value-added analysis, or VAA, seems to be everywhere in K-12 education discussions (it has been embraced by the Obama administration, and many of the field’s leading philanthropic entities, from Gates to Walton to Broad, are intrigued by the approach), I want to offer what I see as the good, the bad and the ugly of VAA — and of the Times’ decision to use VAA as the foundation of its landmark report:

How 'Bout A Little Respect?

Learning, Organizational Change, Teacher Quality

I realize the only work-related issue in K-12 education that anyone wants to talk about today is the rumored jobs bill making its way through the U./S. Congress — a bill that could, depending on whom you ask, either save thousands of essential teacher jobs or simply delay the need to trim excess positions out of a bloated bunch of state budgets — but I can’t stop thinking about a conversation I had last night with my brother-in-law, a recent graduate of the NYC Teaching Fellows program and a prospective Special Education teacher in a city that sorely needs them.

Using Rewards in the Classroom: Short-Term Crutch or Long-Term Strategy?

Learning, Teacher Quality

Today is the last day of Center for Inspired Teaching’s two-week Institute, and as the rest of the country talks about the merits and shortcomings of the Obama administration’s education plan – particularly its belief that external systems of accountability and extrinsic motivators like performance pay are an essential ingredient in reforming public education – I’m watching the same debate unfold here, on the ground, as a small group of DC teachers prepares for the coming school year.

A Sinking Ship?

Assessment, Equity, Leadership, Learning, Organizational Change, Teacher Quality

During a week in which both Education Secretary Arne Duncan and President Barack Obama will publicly defend their education reform priorities – in response to severe criticism from the country’s leading civil rights organizations – I’m trying to figure out how a set of ideas that was so close to mobilizing a quiet revolution in public education has instead led the soldiers of that revolution to passionately (and loudly) take up arms against each other.
All I can come up with is they’ve gotten some lousy advice. And I think I see where they’ve gone wrong.

Here Comes the Judgment

Leadership, Learning, Teacher Quality

On the fourth day of a two-week summer institute, in the haze of post-lunch hour fatigue, I watched something magical and uncomfortable transpire. And I don’t think I’ll ever see the role of the teacher the same way again.

It's the Relationships, Stupid . . .

Learning, Teacher Quality

I’m spending my days observing the two-week summer session of the Inspired Teaching Institute, a yearlong professional development program from Center for Inspired Teaching, a remarkable organization that prepares and supports DC teachers. The institute, described as “a 100% physical, intellectual, and emotional process through which teachers explore the art of teaching in an energetic and safe environment,” is taking place each day in the wrestling room of a DC high school in a leafy green neighborhood of Washington, DC.

What No One Else Will Say About Teach for America

Learning, Teacher Quality

There’s an interesting debate unfolding on the New York Times web site today around this question: Does Teach for America Improve the Teaching Profession?
Unfortunately, too many of the featured contributors — who have sparked hundreds of readers to offer their own feedback — chose to cast TFA in one of two terms: as either the White Knight of education reform (e.g., Donna Foote’s “A Corps of True Reformers”) or as the down-n-dirty Devil himself (e.g., Margaret Crocco’s “A Threat to Public Schools”).
As I wrote last week, in a piece titled “What Gandhi would think of The Lottery”, this sort of polarized rhetoric is the latest iteration of the “I/It” way of seeing public education, and it will get us nowhere. So as someone who neither loves nor hates TFA, let me offer a succinct summary of how I see them, since no one seems to want to acknowledge the fuller picture of what they represent:

The Inspired Mindset — Starting a School, Part III

Learning, Teacher Quality

This morning, over orange juice, coffee and red grapes in the theater room of the Capital City Public Charter School, a small group of interested educators, scholars and citizens listened as Center for Inspired Teaching’s Director of Teaching and Learning, Julie Sweetland, explained what makes the Center’s work so powerful. Inspired Teaching is the entity most responsible for the new … Read More