AFT’s Randi Weingarten attempts to strike a middle ground in the LAT teacher value-added debate. Pretty reasonable and admirable she didn’t do the easy wrong thing there and just throw-in with the naysayers. A lot of analysis based on the 6k teachers in this database would be valuable and a real service by the LAT, but what exactly is the benefit of naming all the teachers? It would also be great to know in a year, two years, etc…what’s been done about the lowest performers – again, the district has some exposure here- but that, too, can be done absent a show trial.
But at the end of the story there is a headscratcher and yoga-like rhetorical stretch: Weingarten compares a teacher with low-value added, who is nonetheless beloved, to Shirley Sherrod the falsely-maligned former USDA official because both were allegedly victims of partial information. That’s indisputably true in the Sherrod case, but illustrates the problem in this instance. Beloved and effective are not axiomatically the same thing. And Weingarten’s claim that this might be such a good teacher that it doesn’t show up on standardized tests is the sort of faux-wisdom that keeps this field so screwed-up. I’m not saying the value-add scores indicate anything definitive about this particular teacher one way or the other but I am saying we should be more open to the possibility. And principals with experience with value-add will tell you the exact same thing: It challenges some preconceptions and they learn from it and sometimes probe deeper.
What worries me about this whole exercise: If the LAT reporters/editors on this story didn’t have the chops to call BS on that one, do you really want them publicly impugning teachers with this data? I don’t.