Bill Gates has an important op-ed in today’s Times opposing publishing teacher value-add scores. I obviously agree with that sentiment although as long as the information is available someone is going to publish it. But the Gates op-ed raises a few other questions worth discussing.
First, Gates writes,
Value-added ratings are one important piece of a complete personnel system. But student test scores alone aren’t a sensitive enough measure to gauge effective teaching, nor are they diagnostic enough to identify areas of improvement. Teaching is multifaceted, complex work. A reliable evaluation system must incorporate other measures of effectiveness, like students’ feedback about their teachers and classroom observations by highly trained peer evaluators and principals.
True enough in terms of building a comprehensive evaluation system and one that works across all grades and subjects not just tested ones. But, value-add is a better predictor of persistent high and low-performance than Gates seems to be acknowledging here. The Gates Foundation’s own work shows that value add fares well compared to other methods. The political sensitivities around this entire issue and desire to create buy-in are obvious but we’re long overdue for a more straightforward conversation here as well.
Second, Gates doesn’t get into the more complicated issue of parental access to this information. I do think parents should be able to know if their child is being taught by a teacher with persistently low evaluations and should have access to the results of evaluations – the entire summative evaluation not just the value-add score in grades and/or subjects that are assessed with standardized tests. It’s an issue of equity because right now there is an informal information flow that allows some parents to make better choices about teachers than others. Surfacing information in a responsible way can help level the field and introduce another incentive for more robust human resources policies than are the norm today.