A Sunday Los Angeles Times article is challenging some popular conceptions about which teachers are effective and where they work.
The newspaper analyzed student records in the Los Angeles Unified School System to perform a value-added analysis of teacher effectiveness. The newspaper's plan to post online a database of the results of 6,000 elementary school teachers has produced an uproar, including a mass boycott from the teacher's union.
* Contrary to popular belief, the best teachers were not concentrated in schools in the most affluent neighborhoods, nor were the weakest instructors bunched in poor areas. Rather, these teachers were scattered throughout the district. The quality of instruction typically varied far more within a school than between schools.
• Although many parents fixate on picking the right school for their child, it matters far more which teacher the child gets. Teachers had three times as much influence on students' academic development as the school they attend. Yet parents have no access to objective information about individual instructors, and they often have little say in which teacher their child gets.
* Many of the factors commonly assumed to be important to teachers' effectiveness were not. Although teachers are paid more for experience, education and training, none of this had much bearing on whether they improved their students' performance.
* Highly effective teachers routinely propel students from below grade level to advanced in a single year. There is a substantial gap at year's end between students whose teachers were in the top 10% in effectiveness and the bottom 10%. The fortunate students ranked 17 percentile points higher in English and 25 points higher in math.
• Some students landed in the classrooms of the poorest-performing instructors year after year — a potentially devastating setback that the district could have avoided. Over the period analyzed, more than 8,000 students got such a math or English teacher at least twice in a row.
One of the ongoing issues about the move to community schools in Wake is the contention from opponents that abandoning the diversity policy will cause good teachers to not want to work in high-poverty schools. That argument was repeated Monday by former Assistant Superintendent Chuck Dulaney at the Great Schools in Wake Coalition forum.
The LA Times used a $15,000 grant from the Heckinger Institute, an independent nonprofit education news organization, to hire the Rand Corporation to conduct the statistical analysis of the data.
Los Angeles school officials were choosing not to use the data in the analysis.
But the Charlotte Observer is reporting that value-added ratings are part of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Superintendent Peter Gorman's plan to roll out teacher performance pay in the coming years.
Wake uses its internally developed Effectiveness Index to analyze teacher effectiveness. Some critics, notably school board member John Tedesco, are opposed to the Effectiveness Index because the program expects low-income students to do poorer.
During the school board's budget work session earlier this month, Tedesco questioned Assistant Superintendent David Holdzkom about why Wake still used the Effectiveness Index when the SAS EVAAS program is available. Holdzkom said they don't have enough years of EVAAS data yet to analyze long-term trends for individual teachers.
After Holdzkom's explanation, the board agreed to let staff keep operating the Effectiveness Index.