But don’t expect too much help from schools [when it comes to choosing teachers]. There are few formal policies, and in most places parents have little information to go on. Some misguided efforts, such as publishing teachers’ value-added scores in the newspaper, don’t do much more than confuse and scare people.
Rishawn’s all for publishing value-add scores, he’s hardly alone and I can understand the impulse. And I do think parents should be made aware if their child is being taught by a teacher with multiple years of unsatisfactory evaluations. But, as I wrote at the time the LA Times went down this road there are a few reasons I don’t support this approach of publishing individual value-add scores. Most notably it’s an incomplete piece of information. Yes, the predictive leverage of value-added is better than you’re led to believe by much of the rhetoric but it’s not an entire evaluation nor is it available for all teachers. It would basically be like publishing the error rates of journalists without context about their beat or output or doctors without regard to what they do. And, yes, value-add can address many of the variables – that’s the point – but it’s not a substitute for an overall evaluation that includes other elements and professional judgement.
I find it inconsistent when value-add advocates say that, ‘of course a teacher’s evaluation shouldn’t be based just on test scores’ but then are fine with publishing a statistic derived from test scores that – because it’s being published – by default becomes a summative judgement. In my view a more constructive approach would be for newspapers to report in a descriptive way about what the value-add data in their community shows – overall quality, variance, where high and low-performing teachers are concentrated, etc…without linking it to individuals. And to the point I was trying to make in the column that information would help parents ask the important questions they should be asking.