Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Some additional thoughts on value added . . .

In my December 29th post I asked you what you thought about value added so it is only fair for me to share my thoughts. First, let me share three additional articles that align with some of my thinking on this issue.

In these separate edReformer and Educational Leadership articles, information from a Brookings Brown Center Task Group on Teacher Quality is shared about the need for multiple measures in teacher effectiveness. It is important to understand and consider that more than simply looking at standardized test score gains from year-to-year is necessary for any effective teacher assessment model.

Teaching is a complex task, and value-added captures only a portion of the impact of differences in teacher effectiveness. Thus, high-stakes decisions based on value-added measures of teacher performance will be imperfect. We do not advocate using value-added measures alone when making decisions about hiring, firing, tenure, compensation, placement, or teacher development, but surely value-added information ought to be in the mix given the empirical evidence that it predicts more about what students will learn from the teachers to whom they are assigned than any other source of information.

The main arguments surfacing about using the value added model focus on the reliability of the model as a measurement of effectiveness, the potential for misclassification, the problem with controlling for the many additional variables found in every classroom, and how the measurement will be used in future employment decisions.

What's One to Do? (Education Leadership)

From the federal government to foundations, the pressure is on to use student test score gains to evaluate teachers. Yet doing so in a credible and fair way is a complex and expensive undertaking with no guarantee that intended improvements in teaching and learning will result. What's more, it is not clear that value-added measures yield better information than more traditional teacher evaluation practices do.

The complexity and uncertainty of measuring student achievement growth and deciding how much responsibility for gains to attribute to the teacher argue against using such measures for high-stakes decisions about individuals. To protect teachers from erroneous and harmful judgments, a consensus is emerging that we need multiple measures that tap evidence of good teaching practices as well as a variety of student outcomes, including but not limited to standardized test score gains. According to a recent study (Coggshall, Ott, & Lasagna, 2010), most teachers support such a multiple-measures approach.

That is the question we are faced with. What is one to do? My view is aligned with this Education Week article from the authors of the above cited study.

When teacher evaluation that incorporates value-added data is compared against an abstract ideal, it can easily be found wanting in that it provides only a fuzzy signal of teacher effectiveness. But when it is compared to performance assessment in other fields or to evaluations of teachers based on other sources of information, it becomes obvious that even a fuzzy signal of teacher effectiveness, if it is the best available signal, can be a vast improvement over no signal.

Since we say we are about learning we should be using student achievement data as a measure of success at multiple levels in our system. Yes, this will be complex and difficult to achieve. It will require collaboration and common understanding of our purpose for the measurement and demand differentiated support systems for teachers and administrators, including me, who also share in the responsibility to ensure that all students continue to learn and grow. In Tahoma, it will also mean going beyond measures of academic progress on standardized tests to identifying growth on acquisition of our Outcomes and Indicators, Habits of Mind, and thinking skills.  Most importantly, I believe that student achievement data is only one of multiple indicators that must be considered as we work together to develop a measurement system that influences the quality of learning in every classroom, everyday for every child in our system.

What are your thoughts about this part of the quote from the Education Leadership article quoted above related to what teachers think?  Do you agree?

. . . To protect teachers from erroneous and harmful judgments . . . According to a recent study (Coggshall, Ott, & Lasagna, 2010), most teachers support such a multiple-measures approach.

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