More controversy over value-added measures for teacher evaluations lately, so we wanted to add some thoughts:
What makes an effective teacher and what metrics should be used in order to qualify, or quantify, the term “effective” in the context of a teacher evaluation? Moreover, is the term “effective” even an appropriate term to use when labeling the work of an educator? These hotly debated questions have been more or less at the center of the proverbial discussion table – surrounded with key stakeholders in the education realm. These stakeholders have included (and continue to include), educators, non-educators, business leaders, politicians, union-leaders, parents, and philanthropists to name a few, and it doesn’t appear that either group has been reluctant to share their respective opinions – no matter where they would fall along the (wide ranging) spectrum.
If anything has been made clear in all this noise, it is that opinions on subject matters such as “effective teaching,” “testing,” and “accountability” are vastly different. Likewise, it appears that if anything, stakeholders are increasing the distance between their varied opinions, rather than, taking steps towards a unilateral agreement. The article highlighted, AFT’s Weingarten Backtracks on Using Value-Added Measures for Evaluation, highlights this point precisely. Looking beyond any personal opinion(s) on where American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President, Ms. Weingarten stands on education issues, Weingarten in this case, missed an opportunity to bring stakeholders closer together regarding the discussion around teacher evaluation.
Weingarten is correct in her assessment of the “volatility” found within value-added measurements. As pointed out in the article, many of these measurements are new and untested, leading to situations such as in DC, where errors were found in the work of the evaluation agency contracted to perform the value-added metric work. While this is simply inexcusable, is this a flaw in the value-added measurement, or the case of basic incompetency within a specific contracted work group? As opposed to rejecting and denouncing the value-added measurement concept in its entirety, the more logical plan of action would have been to advocate for additional resources to be allocated to the development and/or feasibility of this type of measurement. It is simply too early to abandon a scientific concept in the value-added measurement and its place in the education space. The metric is not only untested, but is also largely misunderstood by the masses.
Again, here is where Weingarten misses – choosing rather, to denounce the value-added measurement system in its entirety. With the resources she has at her disposal in addition to the incredibly large audience she commands, Weingarten had the opportunity to not only further educate her constituent base about the value-added measurement, but also, to bring her constituents to the decision making table – providing them with a voice (and a seat at the table) in the evaluation system discussion, which many believe, is a table in which they have been left without a seat.
Let me be clear in that Weingarten is not the sole culprit here, as stakeholders from each end of the spectrum have missed opportunities to take the “higher road” – and to work towards strengthening the contentious relationships that exist amongst the different stakeholder groups. For example, proponents of high-stakes testing and teacher accountability have been just as off the mark in creating flawed exams and evaluation teacher evaluation systems that fail to reflect the “full” body of an educator’s work.
In all this, the question remains, if not a “value-added” measurement, then what is the proper metric to use in measuring student performance and or teacher effectiveness (if possible)? It would appear that the importance of establishing a metric capable of capturing student growth over the course of a given academic year is significant – however, as is often the case with this topic, there are a number that would disagree. To those in disagreement – should it not be the expectation that all students, regardless of their academic level, demonstrate a given level of academic progress and or growth throughout the school year? If not, what then should a student be expected to accomplish over the course of an academic year?
Clearly, there is no consensus amongst stakeholders on this issue … so naturally, the noise continues.