Eye on Education

Grading the Teachers: Stories on Value-Added Starting Sunday

GTT logoOhio is introducing a new way of grading teachers, one based on student test scores and whether students learn as much as expected in a given year. It uses a measure called value-added.

Starting Sunday, StateImpact Ohio and the Cleveland Plain Dealer will launch a series of stories about value-added:

  • Sunday: What is value-added and why does it matter?
  • Monday: Are Ohio’s “best” teachers paid accordingly?
  • Tuesday: Are teachers at high-poverty schools at a disadvantage in these ratings?

You can:

  • Log on to StateImpact Ohio and the Plain Dealer all this week;
  • Listen to radio reports Monday and Tuesday morning and afternoon on Ohio public radio stations;
  • Tune into WCPN’s call-in talk show the Sound of Ideas Wednesday for a special value-added show; and
  • Join the conversation online, here on StateImpact or on Twitter #teachereval #ohedchat.


  • Laura H. Chapman

    I applaud this agenda for reporting. I hope that your approach will emphasize that the statistical method for VA calculations in Ohio were honed in the field of genetic engineering in agriculture where William Sanders deployed them to predict yields from seeds, sows, and corn. Substitute teachers, their productivity of test scores, and the desire to do a triage on teachers who are unproductive. The hi-jacking of the term “growth” to refer to a score churned out by an unpublished (proprietary) statistical formula is a feat of marketing genius, and a great way to misrepresent the complex interplay of factors that explain achievement in school. In fact, statisticians know that so-called value-added or growth measures cannot isolate “teacher effects” with the degree of reliability and consistency necessary for high-stakes judgments about teacher and school effectiveness. The dirty little secret is that sources of variations in scores mapped in “value-added” formulas only account for 3% to 18% of the variation in student test scores. There are 18 other factors known to be more influential, not only in the U.S. but also in 20 industrial countries including parental education and income, number of books at home, same language spoken at home and at school, a two-parent home environment, a school program that centers on following step by step instructions and correct answers, not complex problems, the expectation that students will comply with rules and social courtesies in school. A second dirty secret is that up to 70% of teachers have job assignments for which there are not statewide or national tests required for value-added calculations. Solution: These teachers get to write “student learning objectives” (SLOs) for their classes/courses. This written exercise is a legacy from writers of WWII training manuals. The 3-5 page document is scored by an administrator or some contract evaluator for compliance with 26 boilerplate criteria, including detailed information about pre-tests, posttests, etc. If you can figure out how this information gets entered in a spreadsheet then turned into a value added score good luck and please let your readers know. The black box decision counts for 50% of the teacher’s evaluation. This SLO sham is not unique to Ohio. The same template, and training on how to comply with the criteria, are essentially the same in every state that receives federal funds. USDE outsourced contracts to several tasked with making growth measures intelligible. Economists and statisticians have conjured these seriously inappropriate measures of teacher quality, with significant cheerleading from the billion-dollar testing industry.

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