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Grading the Teachers: Using Value-Added Scores to Evaluate Ohio Teachers


Teacher evaluations, once based largely on a brief classroom visit from a principal every few years, will change dramatically this school year.

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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.



Ohio is one of more than 30 states experimenting with more rigorous, data-driven systems of grading teachers. In Ohio’s case, teachers earn one of five value-added ratings that are a key part of their overall “final grades.” Those grades range from “Most Effective” at the top end of the scale to the “Least Effective.”

Many policymakers view this data-driven approach to sizing up teacher performance as crucial to weeding out bad teachers and rewarding good ones. But some teachers see the measure as a flawed attempt at quantifying something that isn’t easily quantifiable.

How it Works

Value-added scores are calculated by comparing how much students in each teacher’s class learned during the course of the year with how much they’re expected to learn.

How much they learn basically means how much their scores on state tests changed year to year. How much they’re expected to learn is determined by looking at how much other students at similar achievement levels have learned from year to year.

The better students do in comparison to their peers, the better their teacher’s score. That differential is assumed to be the teacher’s doing — the “value” he or she adds in the classroom.

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.

Why it Matters

What’s riding on these grades varies depending on how school districts choose to use them. But more than a teacher’s pride is at stake. The ratings could eventually become part of decisions about how much teachers are paid, what classes they teach and, if a district has to lay off teachers, their place on the list of who stays and who goes.

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Schools get rated based on how well students perform on standardized state tests. Not so for teachers. Their main evaluation comes from often brief classroom observations by a principal. Practically no one fails. The new value-added measurement Ohio is phasing in aims to gauge how much a student learns from one year to the next, [...]

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