This LA Times article on comparing teacher performance is a must read for anyone interested in education issues. Essentially, they used statistical analyses of how a teacher influences the performance of his/her students relative to teachers in the same school which should control for student background and other variables. A lot of the comments following the article take the LA Times to task for teacher bashing. Do you think the article is unfair? If so why?
A few take home messages:
A) The district never performed a similar statistical analysis to show their teachers how they're doing at teaching math and English basics.
B) It is almost impossible to fire teachers that are demonstrably ineffective. That doesn't mean they don't care or aren't personable. In fact, experience, education or personality type don't necessarily tell you which teachers are actually effective at teaching basic skills.
C) Apparently the teachers union is contemplating boycotting the LA Times for this article. What?!? This is some of the better journalism I've seen lately. Asking tough questions of powerful monopoly institutions and demanding performance is what our journalists SHOULD be doing.
D) I don't think anyone would advocate using student performance as the ONLY factor in a teacher's evaluation. The problem is, it currently is not used in the LA school district--or most I would imagine. Why shouldn't student performance be part of the equation?
Here's a rebuttal claiming that the value-added statistical analysis is flawed for individual teachers because student assignments aren't random. It think she's probably wrong because the analysis still factors in a student's individual performance in prior and subsequent years so you can spot a year where a student did worse than their normal performance. If this pattern repeats for most of the students in the class then you should be able to draw some robust conclusions and this should control for some slight heterogeneity in classroom populations.
An FAQ on the methods used in the analysis.
The technical nitty gritty (I did not read this).