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Value-added: How Ohio is destroying a profession

We ended the week last week with a post titled "The 'fun' begins soon", which took a look at the imminent changes to education policy in Ohio. We planned on detailing each of these issues over the next few weeks.

Little did we know that the 'fun' would begin that weekend. It came in the manner of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and NPR publishing a story on the changing landscape of teacher evaluations titled "Grading the Teachers: How Ohio is Measuring Teacher Quality by the Numbers".

It's a solid, long piece, worth the time taken to read it. It covers some, though not all, of the problems of using value-added measurements to evaluate teachers

Those ratings are still something of an experiment. Only reading and math teachers in grades four to eight get value-added ratings now. But the state is exploring how to expand value-added to other grades and subjects.

Among some teachers, there’s confusion about how these measures are calculated and what they mean.

“We just know they have to do better than they did last year,” Beachwood fourth-grade teacher Alesha Trudell said.

Some of the confusion may be due to a lack of transparency around the value-added model.

The details of how the scores are calculated aren’t public. The Ohio Education Department will pay a North Carolina-based company, SAS Institute Inc., $2.3 million this year to do value-added calculations for teachers and schools. The company has released some information on its value-added model but declined to release key details about how Ohio teachers’ value-added scores are calculated.

The Education Department doesn’t have a copy of the full model and data rules either.

The department’s top research official, Matt Cohen, acknowledged that he can’t explain the details of exactly how Ohio’s value-added model works. He said that’s not a problem.

Evaluating a teacher on a secret formula isn't a practice that can be sustained, supported or defended. The article further details a common theme we hear over and over again

But many teachers believe Ohio’s value-added model is essentially unfair. They say it doesn’t account for forces that are out of their control. They a