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LA Times grades local teachers

August 16, 2010

The Los Angeles Times is using seven years of test score data to rate individual teachers in city schools. The paper plans to publish the results of the study so that parents can find out how “effective” their children’s teachers are.

Effective, in this case, refers to how much an elementary school teacher raised the average percentile of students in his or her classroom on standardized state tests. The paper hired an economist from the Rand Corporation to conduct the study.

The method, known as “value-added,” is similar in principle to what Rhode Island education officials are asking districts to begin doing as part of a teacher evaluation system that links teachers to individual student performance. The goal is to identify which teachers are highly effective and which teachers need to make improvements.

Critics of this type of analysis say standardized tests are not a fair measure of everything a teacher does in the classroom, including helping students develop socially and emotionally. They also fear that focusing too much on standardized test scores will lead to a narrowing of instruction that will alienate some students and may not improve schools.

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