Ohio

Eye on Education

Grading the Teachers: Performance Isn’t Reflected in Teachers’ Paychecks

Toledo 7th grade teacher Emily Brown helps students with a science experiment on the motion of waves. Brown has been rated most effective in math twice, and most effective than average in reading.

Ida Lieszkovszky / StateImpact Ohio

Toledo 7th grade teacher Emily Brown helps students with a science experiment on the motion of waves. Brown has been rated most effective in math twice, and most effective than average in reading.

Students in Emily Brown’s Toledo classroom conduct an experiment on the movement of waves.

While she drops a block of clay into an aluminum tray filled with water and watches the waves spread out, 7th grader Angel Hines explains why she likes Mrs. Brown.

“She actually lets us grade her so she knows if she’s doing something wrong she’ll fix it.”

Performance Not Reflected Paychecks

The state of Ohio grades Brown too, and they agree she’s a good teacher. Last year, her value-added score for mathematics was “most effective,” the highest of five ratings.

Value-added is a statistical model that rates and individual teachers based on the amount of progress their students make over the course of one year. Brown is one of about 16,000 teachers the state already has value-added scores for.


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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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Brown would like to see her stellar performance reflected in her paycheck. It isn’t. Brown makes about $3,000 less than the average Toledo teacher, and that’s not unusual.

According to an analysis by StateImpact Ohio and the Plain Dealer, there is little correlation between a teacher’s performance and how much they are paid. Across the state, teachers who score the lowest on this new “value added” measurement frequently make more than those who score the highest.

Ohio is hardly unique in this disconnect between pay and performance.

“There’s nothing inherent in the way teachers are paid that would necessarily reward their performance,” says Dan Goldhaber, an education researcher at the University of Washington.

Glowing Reviews

Under the current system pay increases are based on years of service and getting advanced degrees. Evaluations largely consist of brief classroom observations and have almost nothing to do with pay, by union contract.

Goldhaber says the way the system is set up, pretty much everybody gets a glowing review.

“So if everybody gets a glowing review you can’t use performance evaluations for anything, and that’s a big problem when you think about changing the quality of the workforce.”

Another finding from the StateImpact and Plain Dealer investigation found that older, more experienced teachers are paid more than younger teachers, but older teachers do not generally outperform young ones.

“Not Years of Experience and Masters”

Cleveland schools has noticed this trend too, and recently moved to adopt a differentiated pay system, one that rewards performance and takes into account value-added.

“It is not years of experience and masters, that’s exactly what we’ve set aside,” Cleveland schools CEO Eric Gordon says.

Other districts are moving in a similar direction, experimenting with varying performance pay models. Eventually, value-added could effect up to half of a teacher’s overall grade, decide their pay and even whether they have a job.

Can’t Quantify Everything

These are exactly the types of changes that makes Melissa Cropper nervous; she’s president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers

“I do think that teachers need to be held accountable. I just don’t think that you can quantify everything, and when you try to quantify everything it takes away from what good teaching actually is.”

- Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers

“I do think that teachers need to be held accountable,” she says. “I just don’t think that you can quantify everything, and when you try to quantify everything it takes away from what good teaching actually is.”

Advocates for this new data-based performance measure disagree. They say the whole point of gathering all this data and analyzing it is to identify what good teaching is, and who the good teachers are.

Value-added, they say, should help schools keep good teachers, weed out the bad ones, and help those who want and need to improve to do so.

Value-Added “A Wake Up Call”

Columbus teacher Katie Zielke says for her, value-added was a wake up call. She was rated least effective last year.

Molly Bloom / StateImpact Ohio

Columbus teacher Katie Zielke says for her, value-added was a wake up call. She was rated least effective last year.

Columbus teacher Katie Zielke says the first time she saw her value-added score of least effective, “it was a wake up call.”

“I thought I was doing things right, you always think you’re doing your best and then I kind of went wow, what I was doing was not right, it was not my best.”

That’s exactly the kind of introspection advocates hope value-added will inspire.

Whether most teachers eventually embrace the new measurement is an open question. Many have doubts about its accuracy and fairness.

The public is just starting to understand it.

The conversation in Ohio and other states using it is just beginning.

Comments

  • duckmonkeyman

    Value add has a fundemental flaw in that it is based on standardized tests – a single test once or twice a year that may itself be flawed or biased. Also, I am reading the ODE documents on EVAAS and lacking a PhD in statistics, I do not see how any teacher could could answer the question “what do I need to do to improve my EVAAS score?”. If the model is obscure or secret, then it becomes ineffective. Plus any statistical model is only as good as its assumptions and EVAAS has many. For example, the method to handle transfer students and missing scores is a nested matrix equation that is mind boggling. EVAAS layers assumption on parameter on adjustment till we must wonder if it is truly measuring anything anymore. Google “Campbell’s Law” and you can see another issue is that EVASS, in measuring education, may actually end up distorting the very system it is trying to measure – in other words people will game the system and teach only to the test.

    Also, publishing teacher ratings serves no purpose and Ohio can do better. It is a simplistic, negative, and destructive practice. I am trying to think of another profession either public or private where stack rankings are used to try to publicly shame employees to improve. It would be like ranking doctors by summarizing results of patient blood work or measuring patient waistlines with the “better” doctors having lower LDL counts or slimmer patients. Publishing the rankings, especially with flawed data, shows an anti-teacher bias that I would expect from the PD but did not from Impact. That was disappointing. No ranking system is perfect or even close. Students are humans, not data points. Believe it or not, teachers fall into that category, too. But we should not need statistical models to know that.

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