New York’s ‘F’ in math

March 11, 2011

Impelled by “Race to the Top,” New York State has mandated that by 2013, 25% of a teacher’s evaluation be based on a value-added system–which supposedly means improved student scores on standardized tests. New York City supports public release of such rankings.

The “science” behind the national race to convert teachers from professionals into producers is abysmally flawed. A study by a Dartmouth College economics professor who supports value-added teacher ratings, in fact undermined their value. It showed that at best, on average, students placed with “high value-added” teachers improve their test scores by only 3 percentile points. But schools that fail “No Child Left Behind” standards have test scores from 10 to 30+ percentiles below “acceptable.”

Even if all a school’s teachers were rated “high-performing,” much more would be needed to turn a failing school around. Further, the study found a correlation of .3 (on a scale of 0 to 1) that a high-performing teacher would receive a similar rating two years in a row. Again, not a strong relationship–like a 30% chance of rain.

The United Federation of Teachers sued to keep these flawed rankings private. The State Supreme Court ruled against the UFT, which has appealed. Nationwide there are 3 million unionized teachers. Until teachers’ unions, in collaboration with the entire school community, develop a sound, fair and professional evaluation system, “Race to the Top” will trample the careers of thousands of dedicated teachers, leaving their students behind.

–Retired Detroit Teacher

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