Ohio

Eye on Education

Grading the Teachers: Why We’re Publishing Teachers’ Value-Added Ratings

Cleveland Plain Dealer Editor Chris Quinn (left) and Idesatream Editor David Molpus explain why their outlets are publishing these ratings.

The Plain Dealer, Ideastream

Cleveland Plain Dealer Assistant Managing Editor Chris Quinn (left) and WCPN Ideastream Executive Editor David Molpus says it's important for the public to understand value-added ratings.

Is your son’s math teacher a good one? How about your daughter’s reading teacher?

You used to have to depend on the parent grapevine to find out. Now there’s another source.

The state’s new value-added ratings offer a look at the performance of individual teachers, based on whether their students make the expected academic progress during the school year — as calculated solely by scores on the Ohio Achievement Assessments. The state gives math and reading teachers in fourth through eighth grades one of five value-added ratings, ranging from “Most Effective” to “Least Effective.”


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This series about valued-added, a new way that Ohio is using to measure whether teachers provide a year’s worth of learning to their students, is the result of a partnership between The Cleveland Plain Dealer and StateImpact Ohio. StateImpact reporters Molly Bloom and Ida Lieszkovszky worked with Plain Dealer reporter Patrick O’Donnell and Plain Dealer data analysis editor Rich Exner to produce these stories.

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Data

The Cleveland Plain Dealer and StateImpact Ohio are making the ratings for some teachers in the state’s pilot value-added program available on their websites.

Not all teachers are listed. The state started calculating value-added for close to 6,300 teachers in the 2010-11 school year and increased that to more than 16,000 for 2011-12, before doing it for all reading and math teachers in grades four through eight after this upcoming school year.

Our database includes only the 4,200 teachers who have two years of scores, because those scores can vary from year to year. The ratings listed use a composite score, reflecting teachers’ performance over two years.

Public release of value-added ratings in other states has drawn sharp criticism. Teachers protested when the Los Angeles Times independently calculated and published value-added scores in 2010. The New York Times drew similar howls last year when it sued New York City for access to the district’s teacher value-added ratings and published them.

Critics called the release an invasion of teacher privacy and complained that unreliable results could place an unfair stigma on low-scoring teachers. They also argued that making scores public would make teachers defensive and damage schools’ ability to use the scores to improve teaching.

Teachers in Ohio are often anxious about their scores appearing in public.

“It’s scary to think that they’re going to start publishing these in the newspaper,” said Alesha Trudell, who teaches fourth-grade language arts and social studies at Hilltop Elementary in Beachwood. “You know they’re going to say your name and it’s going to put this stigma out to the community that ‘Oh look, she was Most Effective one year and now she’s not so effective.’”

Plain Dealer and StateImpact editors said they considered those concerns but decided it was more important to provide information — even if flawed — to help parents understand their children’s education and for the public to better understand a measure increasingly used by the state and school districts.

Plain Dealer Assistant Managing Editor Chris Quinn said there are several reasons to make the ratings available.

“One is that state lawmakers created the value-added system to come up with a better way to assess teachers, to give the residents of the state better accountability,” he said. “Another is that tax dollars are used to compile the ratings, meaning the people of Ohio have paid for this.

“My caution to readers and listeners would be, as Ohio education officials have said, these scores are only a part of the criteria necessary for full and accurate evaluation of an individual teacher.”

–David Molpus, WCPN Ideastream

“Finally, it seems like common sense,” Quinn continued. “Any parent sending a child off to school wants to know everything possible about what is ahead for that child. If public information exists about the quality of a teacher, who are we to deny that information to the parent?”

David Molpus, executive editor of WCPN Ideastream, which manages StateImpact Ohio, said that listing the ratings along with the jointly produced three-day series of articles about the measure helps the public evaluate teachers — and the evaluation process.

“The series highlights trends and general conclusions but, ultimately, this does come down to individuals,” Molpus said.

“My caution to readers and listeners would be, as Ohio education officials have said, these scores are only a part of the criteria necessary for full and accurate evaluation of an individual teacher. There are a lot of questions still about the particular formula Ohio is using and which variables beyond a teacher’s control need to be considered in arriving at a fair and accurate formula.”

“We hope the series provides a context for the new state data and will launch many more conversations on where this all goes from here,” Molpus said.

When viewing the ratings online, readers should note:

  • The company that calculates value-added for Ohio says scores are most reliable with three years of data. Ohio will use three-year rolling averages of value-added scores when it has them for teachers. But two years of scores from the pilot are available for some teachers now, and districts can use fewer than three years when teachers have been teaching fewer years or if three years of data are not available.
  • Ohio’s value-added ratings do not account for the socioeconomic backgrounds of students, as they do in some other states.
  • Value-added scores measure students’ progress only by their performance on the Ohio Achievement Assessments.
  • Value-added scores are not a teacher’s full rating. Ohio law requires value-added to be 50 percent of teachers’ total rating, when available, but classroom observations and measures of professionalism make up the other half. 

Read more: Search Value-Added Grades For 4,200 Ohio Teachers


What do you think makes a good teacher? Join the conversation on Twitter at #teachereval #ohedchat.

Comments

  • MrsKrause

    There
    is no way to truly measure the “value-added” by a teacher. And test
    scores are absolutely not the way. True story: When I moved from one
    school to another, my test scores dropped by about 30 percentage points.
    Did I suddenly become a worse teacher? Every year, I have students
    whose grades drop due to reasons far beyond my control–death of a loved
    one, pregnancy, incarceration of a parent, incarceration of themselves.
    Sometimes I’m just overjoyed that they made it to school. Their test
    scores will fall–but a teacher’s “value” to that child is beyond the
    measure of these ratings.

    If the Plain Dealer and StateImpact had said we
    publish these scores so you’ll know how preposterously flawed and inadequate the state
    measurements are, I would feel a lot more comfortable with their
    editorial decision. But it sounds like they actually believe that a
    teacher’s value can be measured by a test. That someone else takes.

  • Andrea

    Value added is calculated on a formula that changes every year and is not shared with anyone in a school district. I have no idea what “expected growth” is from year to year. I think that publishing these scores adds even more pressure on our children and teachers. Is basically forcing teachers to teach to a test the best education practice?
    What about kids that fall asleep during the test (yep, happened this year), or students that didn’t sleep, or don’t have food at home? All those scores should relate to a teacher’s pay? Wow.
    That makes as much sense as linking a dentists pay to how many patients get cavities or don’t. Or linking a doctors pay to how many patients get cancer or are overweight.
    I’m fine with being accountable. But, let’s set realistic measures that aren’t top secret. Let’s set our teachers and students up for success. The bad teachers will still come to the surface.

  • MathTeacher412

    Plain Dealer Assistant Managing Editor Chris Quinn said there are several reasons to make the ratings available.

    “One is that state lawmakers created the value-added system to come up with a better way to assess teachers, to give the residents of the state better accountability,” he said.

    State lawmakers DID NOT create the value-added system. It was initially created by Dr. William Sanders, a statistician in agricultural genetics at the University of Tennessee. Get your facts right as your statement is very misleading.

  • Economically-disadvantaged Kid

    This list of incomplete information is being published prematurely. Please read what the editors, authors, themselves wrote regarding “why they are publishing them.” ”

    “My caution to readers and listeners would be, as Ohio education officials have said, these scores are only a part of the criteria necessary for full and accurate evaluation of an individual teacher. There are a lot of questions still about the particular formula Ohio is using and which variables beyond a teacher’s control need to be considered in arriving at a fair and accurate formula….
    When viewing the ratings online, readers should note:
    The company that calculates value-added for Ohio says scores are most reliable with three years of data. Ohio will use three-year rolling averages of value-added scores when it has them for teachers. But two years of scores from the pilot are available for some teachers now, and districts can use fewer than three years when teachers have been teaching fewer years or if three years of data are not available.
    Ohio’s value-added ratings do not account for the socioeconomic backgrounds of students, as they do in some other states.
    Value-added scores measure students’ progress only by their performance on the Ohio Achievement Assessments.
    Value-added scores are not a teacher’s full rating. Ohio law requires value-added to be 50 percent of teachers’ total rating, when available, but classroom observations and measures of professionalism make up the other half.”

    Finally, “We hope the series provides a context for the new state data and will launch many more conversations on where this all goes from here,” Molpus said. Mr. Molpus, isn’t it possible for more conversations to be launched without publishing this half-baked premature so-called, “data?!” Are you trying to drive every good teacher out of economically-disadvantaged schools? The article even mentioned, Ohio data does not consider “socioeconomic backgrounds of students, as they do in some other states.”

  • Laura H. Chapman

    Plain Dealer editors said they “decided it was more important to provide information — even if flawed.” than do their work as journalists. You have invested more time justifying the circulation of flawed information, than understanding the farce of these scores, and the marketing campaigns designed to mislead to public about their use. If you can find 25 legislators who will explain these scores in plain English to your readers do it. Have you published the price of the contract with SAS? Who on your staff can identify all of the assumptions and missing variables in these scores. Have you investigated the tests that these so-called value-added scores use for a diet. Do you think “student achievement” should be reduced to one score?. Do you know that the SAS formula migrated into education from studies in genetic engineering where it is used to predict the productivity of seeds, sows, and cows? Can you find me a corporate report that says past performance predicts future performance? The answer is NO. But you are willing to publish scores churned out by SAS that are based on that principle.

  • BB

    Unfortunately this system will never work as long as students are hand selected to be in certain classes with specific teachers. Some classes with the MOST patient teachers will have classes filled with high risk, special needs, and the most difficult students, while other teachers get more of the students that do not have issues. Since the classroom setting is not balanced from the start, there is no way to judge these classrooms against their peers. This is so wrong! As an involved parent in one of the districts listed, I can tell you, the effectiveness of these teachers is not evaluated fairly. My own three children flourished with some of the teachers that are labeled “average” or “below average.” This saddens me that someone would put this into place. Someone who does not have children in these districts. Someone who doesn’t understand the big picture of what really goes on in districts. This saddens me that this system has now labeled these teachers, who ARE valuable and ARE important to each child.

  • IvaHaddit

    Value added data to rate teachers is about as valid and fair as the Salem witch trials. NPR investigative journalists should consult real statisticians (not those at ODE or in ANY state government agency) for an unbiased evaluation of this bogus system for measuring student growth and teacher effectiveness. The question should be asked, “If a student had a perfect score on the fourth grade reading OAA the previous year, and missed one point (out of 50) on the fifth grade reading OAA, how can it be determined that the student didn’t grow a full year?” One point on one test is valid in drawing the conclusion that the student didn’t grow a full year? Really? I’d hate to be a teacher of gifted or otherwise bright, high achieving students. You don’t stand a chance. The question also needs to be asked, “How much money does Battelle for Kids donate to Republican political campaigns? (Battelle for Kids is the company that comes up with all of these magical and secret formulas and sells the data to the state). Oh, that’s a secret, too.

  • Larispitler

    I love how teachers fight every type of scoring related to themselves or their students. They love to list every reason why a system is flawed and how it’s unfair. The unions fight to keep tenured teachers even if they are a terrible teacher. I’m not a teacher, I work in the private sector and am measured twice a year. Whether I think the scoring is fair or not, that’s how my pay and the future of my position is measured. Take some responsibility.

    • Curious

      Are your evaluations made public?

    • PlayFairOhio

      Are you a teacher, married to one, have a parent or child who is one?
      Do you volunteer in the schools, or function as a board member?
      Do you accomplish in one day what a teacher does in one hour?
      Do you have at the minimum 30 sets of parents, or as with middle school, 120 families depending on you?
      And do you smile and choose the profession because you want to?
      Can you MAKE anyone perform on a test the way they need to?
      Walk a mile in their shoes Larispitler.

  • Rep Voter

    Do the math…Only 505 days = Democratic Governor!!!

  • ConcernedTeacher

    As a person in the teaching profession ( I have worked as both a classroom teacher and a special education teacher), I don’t think all standardized testing of children is unreasonable or bad. Some of the data collected can actually be very helpful to guide instruction for the teacher. I am not opposed to an evaluation process and being held accountable, nor are most of my colleagues. I am very concerned though with the direction this recent “teacher evaluation process” is going and the negative effects it could have on both teachers and students! I am highly concerned and confused as to why this value-added data is being published and how there is any value in it to the public who will look at it and see one thing….good teacher/bad teacher…..when this really is not the most effective way to evaluate a teacher. As my role as a special education teacher, I have team taught, co-taught, observed, and spent more time in my colleagues classrooms than probably any administrator, teacher, or parent. I certainly don’t agree with all of the information recently published about the teachers I know. This testing data is a very small piece of the an evaluation tool and by it being released I feel it is only going to misguide many parents and the public. I see some major problems with using this data, based solely on the OAA testing. The first problem is with how the OAA test is currently administered. We are asking children as young as 8 years old to take 2 1/2 hour long tests in a series of consecutive days or at least all in the same week. Children this age are never expected to take tests of this length except for on this one isolated day/week. Is this really the best way to gather accurate data (and use as an evaluative tool for teachers)? Now, I remember taking 2 1/2 hour long tests…..when I was in college, where a 2 1/2 hour long test is probably appropriate. We put the children in less than ideal situations on these days and expect them to preform their best, as if they have the understanding and maturity of adults to realize the importance of these tests. There are no recess during testing time or snack breaks on these days for the kids. I’d like to say that the students (and/or their parents) have the maturity (and/or time) to make sure the kids eat a full breakfast on these days, but as many of us know, time is not always on our side as we are running around in the morning trying to get the kids out of the house. Nor, can we force feed our children. Being a parent myself, sometimes my kids just don’t want to eat very much certain mornings. I have also had the opportunity to have worked in an urban district for part of my teaching career and in a more suburban district. When I was in the urban district, I had little ones crying on test day because they had no breakfast that morning, nor dinner the night before. I saw one of the notes on the article above saying that as of now, they do not take economic status into account for reporting testing data. Having taught in two very different schools on the opposite ends of the socio-economic spectrum, “teaching” is so drastically different in these school, yet “state assessments” can be the exact same???? Now, for the special education side of it. As part of my job, I am an advocate for any student who might have some sort of special need…maybe a learning disability, increased anxiety, ADHD, some increased emotional problems because parents are going through a divorce, a struggling reader, a student in need of math tutoring, etc. I work with students for all sorts of different reasons. As a student advocate, I often stop and look at what this testing is doing to the kids, not just my kids, but all kids. I personally have had students who have panic attacks during the test, or a very bright autistic student who shuts-down in the middle of the test and curls into a ball crying, or of course, the occasional projectile vomiting right before or during the test. Did you know these student’s have “data” that goes on some teacher’s scores? We are so worried about “holding teachers accountable,” we are overlooking if this testing is really best for kids? I feel like most of us are overlooking many of the other issues including increased state money spent on testing and the increase pressure on teachers/students. Imagine if we could spend some of the state testing budget on additional intervention resources and people. One thing I know, in both the urban school and suburban school in which I have worked, there are kids in need and never enough people/adults to help in the way you really want to help each one of them! We are also putting teachers in an impossible situation. I used to have teachers who were open and accepting of all kids, including some higher-need kids. By increasing the “stakes in testing,” teachers are now feeling so much pressure to preform on these tests that they are no longer as open and accepting to working with some higher need kids. As heartbreaking as it is to me, I understand the position they are being put in. Everyone wants the “good test takers.” And even these “good-test takers” are not benefitting because it is becoming harder to take the time to teach the social, emotional, and health issues that are so vitally important and need to be taught in elementary school, when there is so much pressure to teach the content/curriculum. And now, by publishing teacher’s value added scores, we’ve just taken one more step in the wrong direction. I am not so sure that publishing value added data will make anyone a better teacher nor accurately give the public/parents helpful information. I think you did just, discourage teacher collaboration and inclusion of all students. I think you also just encouraged teachers to focus even more on “teaching to the test,” losing the authentic, student-centered, student-need based teaching that is what leads to good citizens and good people, not just good test-takers. I don’t know what it will take, but I hope we can stop going down this “testing-centered” path in which this is a major way that we evaluate and place “value” on our teachers.

  • Concerned Citizen

    This is known to be a flawed system of evaluation. Why are only teachers being subjected to this treatment? All professions, especially politicians, should be subjected to this type of public scrutiny. Teachers can’t and don’t control all of the factors of the data collected.

  • AnnoyedTeacher

    The scores being looked at are scores of the STUDENT, not the teacher. We are judging students on how well they do on a standardized test…repeat, the scores reflect the STUDENT taking a test. If we want to test a teacher on how well of a teacher they are, then give the TEACHERS a test and let the TEACHERS be judged on how well the TEACHER scores. This whole system is completely flawed and how terrible that we as a society think this is the best way to evaluate teachers and “teach” children. The poor things get so wiped out and HATE, HATE, HATE taking these tests. Imagine if you are a parent, and your child is given a test over what you’ve taught them. Then on top of that those scores and how you “rate” at being a parent is shown to your neighbors, friends, family on how well your children did. I don’t think there is a parent out there that can say with 100% certainty that their child does everything they tell them to do, and have never made a mistake or embarrassed them. We don’t take away your children when mistakes are made or based on them taking a test, in which the results give you as a parent a rating, so why are we putting students and teachers, under this pressure?

  • ShameOnYouPlainDealer

    I think this is highly irresponsible of your organization and publication to put this online when many variables are NOT made known to the public. ie. a teacher may NOT have had a class take the test that year due to be moved to another grade, etc. There are teachers on the list in which this is the case. Too many variables to name. You were a bit trigger happy. I am a parent by the way!! Support your schools, volunteer!!

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