September 07, 2010

Iannuzzi jabs at LA Times' teacher evaluations, contrasts it with New York's approach

Source: NYSUT Communications

NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi, appearing on National Public Radio's "To the Point," drew a sharp distinction Tuesday between the Los Angeles Times' reckless use of value-added data to create a teacher rating system and New York's new comprehensive evaluation system, which uses many, multiple measures - including standardized test score data -- to help measure teacher effectiveness.

Iannuzzi said the controversial Times series misled parents and unfairly stigmatized some "phenomenal teachers" by using test scores in isolation - and out of context. The newspaper recently published ratings for about 6,000 of the city's elementary teachers based solely on student test scores.

Iannuzzi said factors such as student attendance, class makeup, mobility and parental involvement all have a bearing on teacher effectiveness and student success. Drawing on his 34 years of classroom teaching, Iannuzzi told the national radio audience that multiple measures - including those that make up the "art of teaching" - must be part of any fair rating system.

"There is a place for the subjective," Iannuzzi said, noting that some teachers who scored poorly in the Times' system may have been among those who seek out the most difficult students to educate, or who volunteer to take on larger classes. "Those other factors are just a reality."

New York's new evaluation system limits students' standardized test scores to 20 percent - and, later, 25 percent - of a teachers' evaluation. It requires school administrators to look at many factors in evaluating teacher effectiveness, and the goal is "not gotcha," Iannuzzi said, "but looking at how to help teachers improve and grow as professionals."

Iannuzzi, who appeared with Stanford Professor Ed Haertel and Tennessee Commissioner of Education Tim Webb, credited the LA Times with beginning a conversation about value-added. However, Iannuzzi said the newspaper's failure to include the myriad other subjective factors that go into teaching made its ratings misleading, at best. And, while the newspaper conceded that much more than test scores go into making good teachers, Iannuzzi said, "Making clear an understanding that there are imperfections doesn't justify the printing of the information."

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