When the Cleveland Plain Dealer and NPR decided to publish the names of 4,200 Ohio teachers and their value-added grades, their reasoning was specious and self-serving. Most of all, it is damaging to the teaching profession in Ohio.
Despite pointing out all the flaws, caveats, and controversies with the use of value-add as a means to evaluate teachers, both publications decided to go ahead and shame these 4,200 teacher anyway. The publication of teachers names and scores isn't new. It was first done by the LA Times, and was a factor in the suicide of one teacher. The LA Times findings and analysis was then discredited
The Plain Dealer analysis is weaker than the LA Times, relying on just 2 years worth of data rather than 7. In fact, the Pleain Dealer and NPR stated they only published 4,200 teachers scores and not the 12,000 scores they had data for because most only had 1 years worth of data. A serious error as value-add is known to be highly unreliable and subject to massive variance.
Beyond the questionable statistical analysis, the publication of teachers names and value-added scores has been criticized by a great number of people, including corporate education reformer Bill Gates, in NYT op-ed titled "Shame Is Not the Solution"
I am a strong proponent of measuring teachers’ effectiveness, and my foundation works with many schools to help make sure that such evaluations improve the overall quality of teaching. But publicly ranking teachers by name will not help them get better at their jobs or improve student learning. On the contrary, it will make it a lot harder to implement teacher evaluation systems that work.
Gates isn't the only high profile corporate education reformer who is critical of such shaming, Wendy Knopp, CEO of Teach for America has also spoken out against the practice
"The principals of very high performing schools would all say their No. 1 strategy is to build extraordinary teams," Kopp said. "I can't imagine it's a good organizational strategy to go publish the names of teachers and one data point about whether they are effective or not in the newspaper."
Indeed, if the editors of the Plain Dealer and NPR had read their own reporting, they would have realized the public release of this information was unsound, unfair and damaging. Let's look at the warning signs in their own reporting
Yet they relied upon only 1 years worth of data for much of their analysis, and just 2 for the teachers whose names they published.
How can it be useful to the layperson to be provided with flawed information? Why would a newspaper knowingly publish flawed information?
And yet they publish 4,200 teachers value-added scores based solely on value add, which at best makes up only 35% of a teachers evaluation. Lay people will not understand these scores are only a partial measurment of a teachers effectiveness, and a poor one at that.
Indeed, so many questions that one would best be advised to wait until those questions are answered before publically shaming teachers who were part of a pilot program being used to answer those questions.
Yet none of these reporters considered any of these factors in publishing teachers names, and readers will wholly miss that necassary context.
Again, the data is unreliable, especially with less than 3 years worth of data, yet the Plain Dealer and NRP decided they should shame teachers using just 2 years worth of data.
How many "ineffective" teachers are really just working in depressed socioeconomic classrooms? The reporters seem not to care and publish the names anyway.
No where in the publication of these names are the teachers full ratings indicated. This again leaves lay-people and site visitors to think these flawed value-added scores are the final reflection of a teachers quality
How absurd is the decision to publish now seeming? Shaming people on the basis of the results of an experiement! By their very nature experiments can demonstrate something is wrong, not right.
We don't even know if the value-added scores are correct and accurate, because the formula is secret. How can it be fair for the results of a secret forumla be public? Did that not rasie any alarm bells for the Plain Dealer and NPR?
But somehow NPR listeners and Cleveland Plain Dealer readers are supposed to understand the complexities, and read the necessary context into the publication of individual teacher scores?
"Initial", "Suggests". They have decided to shame teachers without properly vetting the data and their own analysis - exactly the same problem the LA Times ran into that we highlighted at the top of this article.
It doesn't take a lot of "analysis" to understand that a failing newspaper needed controversy and eyeballs and that their decision to shame teachers was made in their own economic interests and not that of the public good. In the end then, the real shame falls not on teachers who are working hard everyday often in difficult situations made worse by draconian budget cuts, endless political meddling, and student poverty - but on the editors of these 2 publications for putting their own narrow self-interest above that of Ohio's children.
It's a disgrace that they ought to make 4,200 apologies for.