Monday, August 30, 2010

Should Journalists Rate the Teachers?

THE LOS ANGELES TIMES recently examined every third through fifth grade teacher in LA schools and measured them for effectiveness using a controversial method.

Then they created a searchable database and published it online.

The teachers freaked out.

"It is the height of journalistic irresponsibility to make public these deeply flawed judgments about a teacher's effectiveness," the LA teachers' union wrote in a statement. "The database will cause chaos at school sites, as parents scramble to get their children into classes taught by teachers labeled as 'effective' by a newspaper."

Is it the role of the newspaper (or the media in general) to do such research? Should they have made the results public?

Have the teachers rights been violated?


Matthew Albasi said...

I am not entirely sure if it is the sole the responsibility of the media to do this type of research, but by no means is it outside of their rights. They are merely gathering information and relaying it.

I believe that while statistics can lie, presenting them is not an issue, especially when coupled with a technical paper as well as a layman's explanation as to the pros and cons of the controversial system used.

While it is true that showing only value-added data is presenting part of how a teacher should be evaluated and not the whole picture, it is still important information for parents to know.

The teachers rights have not been violated. It is a parents right to know who is teaching their children and what their qualifications are. Would you allow someone without a degree and certification teach your children? No, and a degree is a flawed measure of effectiveness as well.

There is always a flaw in the system. There is always more data to be used. There will never be an absolute and definite answer to the intangible attributes that make teachers able to teach. This data should be taken with a grain of salt and the LA Times should be thanked for elucidating the public in some small way.

Janita Styles said...

What is the harm in allowing the public to know "Who is teaching their children." This will allow teachers to be accountable. So many times you have educators that are just counting the days to retirement and who ends up suffering.... THE KIDS! With a public database everyone should be on the best behavior to make sure the numbers favor them in all areas.

Of course this is also not a full determination of an educators ability. You will also run into problems where a teacher will do everything that they need to do so that the numbers sway in their favor.

This database should be used as useful information but not the only information in determining whether a teacher is adequate or not.

Paki said...

I don't see how this is much different from the way parents have already been looking at school districts. Socioeconomic background is probably the biggest factor in a student's performance. I would assume that the best teachers, according to this value-added system, also happen to be in the schools with the highest literacy and graduation rates. Good schools generally attract good teachers and students from backgrounds conducive to high scholastic achievement.
That being said, I think this value-added system can be useful because it compares a student's past performance to current performance, not to other students' performance. It wouldn't be the only factor in deciding what school I send my kids to, but it would be useful information to have. But if I could afford it, I would still send my kid to a private school over a public school (or at least a Philly public school), regardless of how the teachers were evaluated by this system.