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teacher evaluation special report

They’re from the same neighborhood. They study the same lessons.

Yet the fifth-graders in one classroom at Broadous Elementary School in a low-income neighborhood of Los Angeles, consistently learn more than their peers down the hall. The difference? Their teachers.

For years, evaluating teachers has been as much guesswork as science. But a sophisticated statistical tool known as value-added analysis is making it possible to identify the most effective teachers, allowing their work to be emulated, as well as their less effective colleagues.

Using a database of some 1.5 million student records, the Los Angeles Times has done a value-added analysis of teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

A grant from the Hechinger Institute helped fund the newspaper’s analytical effort.

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Letters to the Editor

12 Letters

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  1. Excellent work here: Important findings for the LAUSD to ponder (for the entire country for that matter); and important effort by a newspaper to do this kind of research-based revelatory work in education. Bravo!

  2. I think that it is great to evaluate teachers in this way in order to compare teacher effectiveness. However, I object to the sensationalist way in order to publicly flame teachers by putting their names and pictures in the newspaper. It’s nothing but an attempt to sell newspapers.

    It is true that there are some seriously low-performing teachers. What people need to do is hold administrators accountable for evaluating these teachers and getting rid of them before they get tenure. Putting their names, etc in the paper isn’t going to solve anything with people who have tenure–in fact it will only lower morale further, thwart efforts to create collaborative groups of professional learning communities where struggling teachers can learn from one another, etc.

    But more than anything I am disappointed in the sensationalism of this–with the LA Times doing it. It reeks of Glenn Beck-ish sensationalism. An independent research group could have done this study, and then publicly reported schools and possibly teachers with teacher id numbers, and I still think that would have gotten LA’s attention.

  3. I really want to commend the LA Times for continuing to report on education and more importantly our schools and our teachers. This report is not only very interesting and important but from my 30 + years in education it is right on the mark. There are some very good teachers in public and private schools, but there are also far too many not so good to outright BAD teachers still destroying our children. All the evidence has been showing all of this for over 40 years but as you point out “PARENTS ARE IN THE DARK”! If they knew how bad many of the teachers and schools were they would demand some Real Change. Thank you for being bold enough to finally print this!!!

  4. “A grant from the Hechinger Institute helped fund the newspaper’s analytical effort”

    What ethical discussions did you guys have about this? did you know the data would be used to name names? Did you know that tjhe LAUSD would allow that sort of access without any restrictions? I’d assumed that “John Smith” was a psuedonym, but that level of detail was completely inappropriate. Grounrules show have been negotiated.

  5. Your “report” is skewed and should have included research from “The Life and Death of the American School System.” In it Diane Ravitch, a respected conservative policy maker who helped in creating NCLB, writes about how “testing and choice are undermining education.” She lists stat after stat about how standardized testing is actually slowing down or stalling student learning. It is funny how your “informing the public” omits how “Blueprint to Success” actually stalled learning in San Diego through test based learning, and made the district fall behind the rest of the state in growth. In her conclusion she admits her wrongdoing and apologizes for what she had helped create. With all of that published information, for you and the Times to allow a few writers to release an over simplified and flawed piece is yellow journalism at best.

    I am a teacher; I have seen other teachers buckle under the pressure and cheat to bring up their test scores. Just think how much more commonplace that will be if a system like the Times is implemented. This system is also to the detriment of History, Science, Health, Art, and Music, in that those subjects are not tested; hence a lot of these “star teachers” do not teach them.
    Stop being partisan, this is a fight that you are obviously ignorant of the facts, shown through your omissions.

    Because of this hack of a piece, I will be canceled my subscription to the Times. Learn the facts, your method has been tried in NYU District 2, San Diego Unified, and under Bloomberg, with mixed results at best.

  6. As both a teacher and parent in Los Angeles, I am grateful that I have finally been informed about who and who is not an effective teacher. I never knew how in the dark I was about the effectiveness of my own child’s teacher. My child’s excitement about school, life lessons imparted by teachers, social and emotional growth and development must have been red herrings because until now, I thought they reflected a teacher’s ability. I now realize how seriously misinformed I was, because teacher effectiveness has nothing to do with these things. It has to do with standardized test scores. Got it.

  7. I am a statistics, research and measurement Ph.D., currently a policy analyst and formerly the head of testing for a southeastern state department of education. Why is it no one EVER questions the accuracy and meaningfulness of the tests used in these analyses? How can you possibly so naively assume that these tests measure the range of what’s important in a child’s education, so that a teacher’s worth can be reduced to a single score? The “sophisticated statistical tool” you tout is hardly more than the “pre-post testing” of the 1970’s worthless evaluations of Title I programs; the method was finally abandoned for the enormous measurement error inherent in what is little more than subracting one test score from another. Are the basic reading and math (etc.) skills measureable by such tests important as a beginning point for a good education? Of course. Are they all that’s necessary or valuable to continue and enhance our democracy? If you think so, we might as well just shut the country down now and let somebody else have it.

  8. To Fred Smith, who questions “Why is it no one EVER questions the accuracy and meaningfulness of the tests used in these analyses?”

    Last week in The Washington Post I did exactly that. See my piece entitled “Why You Should Be Skeptical About Standardized Test Scores,” accessible online at

    A longer version is available here:

  9. I am disappointed that the LA Times. There has been near universal condemnation of the inaccurate representation of Value Added Measurement/analysis. It is inconsistent and is acknowledged by researchers in the field to be inappropriate for evaluating individual teachers. Competent administrators and teachers can distinguish between an effective teacher and one who is not. In the latter group there will be educators who need additional support and professional development and those who need to find a different profession.
    Our focus needs to be on improving teaching and learning. Although there are some people who should not be teaching, their dismissal will not change the education most of our students will receive.

    Most teachers are competent. This group, the majority, needs to be given the support and structures to grow and develop. We have a system to give teachers a chance to improve and a dismissal process if they don’t. We need to make that system work, but we must not focus on that issue and allow it to overshadow the need for an evaluation process that supports the continued growth of the majority of educators who are competent.

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