This issue of publishing teachers' names alongside their students test scores (or, more specifically, analyses of those scores to see how much their students progressed in a given period = "value-added" analysis) is of course tied to the current debate about whether student test scores should be used at all, and if so, how, in evaluating teachers. 

And while I may disagree with some very smart people (and yes this makes me nervous) about how they should be used (I lean towards principals using them on a micro level, districts and beyond using them at the macro, ie not to evaluate individual teachers, but schools, districts, etc) I don't think anyone can disagree on this hard fact: not every K-12 classroom will be tested every year in a way that is rigorous or consistent enough for value-added analysis. 

In New York City, for instance, the data is available right now (I believe, someone tell me if I'm wrong) just for 4th through 8th grades. In DC, third through eighth-grade kids are tested. If we are changing policies about how to evaluate teachers, shouldn't the new policies be applicable to all, fairly? And won't we, by focusing so much on test scores -- especially if we're going to publish them by teachers' names -- motivate teachers to want to teach in the grades that aren't part of the number-crunching? If nothing else changes, won't teachers with seniority request those grades, thus taking themselves out of the equation?

I want teachers to be held accountable as much as anyone I know. I have been fighting for this since I was a teacher myself in South Central, and saw the utterly disastrous and unjust failure of a school in which maybe half of the staff couldn't even manage a classroom, let alone teach. There were teachers at my school who turned on a tv then slept at their desk, who showed up an hour or two late every day (meaning another busy adult had to watch or try to teach 30 extra kids), who told the kids they were "stupid" or "not college material" (I heard a teacher describe a THIRD GRADER this way), etc. This is the tip of the iceberg. I could tell you stories that would make you cry. Meanwhile, there were a few excellent, devoted teachers (mostly African-American women in their 30s to 50s, and some others of all ages and backgrounds who were "naturals.") To publicly reduce what these great teachers were doing in their classrooms (while the rest of the school was barely functioning) to a number based on students' test scores (yes, even in a value-added way) just doesn't seem right to me.

Also, what is the point of doing this if nothing else changes, i.e. if principals still can't fire non- or under-performing teachers without spending incredible amounts of time they don't have on ridiculous paperwork? Is the idea to let the public know how bad some teachers are (at least as their students' test scores seem to show) so maybe they will fight for teachers to be more easily fired? I don't think this will work. The public isn't enamored of testing as it is, and shaming individual teachers by publishing their names will certainly rub some people the wrong way. 

If this value- added information is available, then it must show some teachers to be clearly non- or under-performing year after year. If these "red flags" are out there, waving in the faces of the school district's administration, shouldn't they be bringing them to the attention of the principals and asking, "why?" and "what are you doing about it?"  Of course, then they must let the principals do something about it.....



Posted on October 26, 2010 .