New NYC Chancellor, Same Old, Controversial Value-Added Policy

With the Bloomberg administration in court today arguing for the right to release to the media the value-added ratings of 12,000 New York City public school teachers, it's a good time to remember that a number of proponents of value-added research itself actually oppose this sort of hyper-public rating, ranking, and shaming of teachers.

When I profiled Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp for The Daily Beast, here's what she told me about newspapers publishing value-added data linked to individual teachers' names:

The principals of very high performing schools would all say their No. 1 strategy is to build extraordinary teams. I can't imagine it's a good organizational strategy to go publish the names of teachers and one data point about whether they are effective or not in the newspaper.

Douglas Harris, a University of Wisconsin economist and a leading practioner of value-added research, says that releasing the scores to the media "doesn't make much sense."

Seyward Darby, an education reporter at The New Republic, a magazine that consistently supports standards-and-accountability-driven education reform, has written:

Yes, the information should be available to those in the public who want it — namely parents. But schools or school districts, not newspapers, should share it with parents in a constructive manner, so that they are able to ask questions and understand fully what the information means. … I'm all for transparency. But a wide-open view of incomplete information isn't what we need to improve education. What's more, broadly publicizing even the most thorough of information isn't always productive; complexities and nuances are often best conveyed in smaller settings, with the stakeholders who matter most.

To learn more about value-added, I recommend the following two papers:

Cautiously in favor: Douglas N. Harris, "Would Accountability Based on Teacher Value-Added Be Smart Policy?

Very much against: The Economic Policy Institute, "Problems With the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers"

By the way, the fact that Bloomberg is still pursuing such a controversial move under the reign of the supposedly kinder, more community-oriented chancellor, Dennis Walcott, goes to show that few actual policies will change with Walcott now in power. 

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