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Commentary: What Yesterday’s LAT Editorial Left Out

Alexander Russo | April 12, 2013

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Thursday’s LA Times editorial about the use of student achievement data in teacher evaluations around the country (Bill Gates’ warning on test scores) makes some valuable points about the dangers of rushed, half-baked teacher evaluation schemes that count test scores as more than half of a teacher’s evaluation (as is being done in some states and districts). But it neglects to mention how the issue is playing out in LAUSD — and omits the controversial role the Times itself played in promoting the use of test-based teacher ratings three years ago.

Gates and his foundation have been pushing the use of student achievement data (ie, test scores) in teacher evaluations for several years now — as has the Obama administration, which has made it a key part of both Race to the Top and the so-called “waivers” from No Child Left Behind.

Thanks to new research, however, the Gates Foundation and others are warning districts and states not to over-rely on test-based teacher rating systems and encouraging districts to consider the value of other methods like traditional observation and student surveys along with test score results.

While not mentioned in the Times editorial, the appropriate use of student test scores is an issue in LAUSD because of the new teacher evaluation system that had seemingly been agreed to earlier this year but is now the subject of much dispute. (See:  Dueling Evaluation Memos from Union, District).

The absence of a student achievement-based teacher evaluation could also be a stumbling block for districts including LAUSD who are applying for a federal waiver from No Child Left Behind. (See:  District Waivers Worry State Education Chiefs).

And, as noted in the latest newsletter from UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access (IDEA), the Gates Foundation and Obama administration haven’t been the only enthusiasts for test-based teacher evaluations.

The LA Times was the first major newspaper in the country to publish teacher ratings for thousands of LAUSD teachers in 2010 — failing to heed “experts’ concerns about invalid and unreliable methodologies and negative consequences for the teaching profession.”

Previous posts: More Failing Teachers Pushed Out Under DeasyThe “Ineffective” Teachers Game; Tenure Approval Still +90 PercentDon’t Water Down Teacher Evaluation, Parent Pleads

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