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Union says L.A. teacher evaluations are irresponsible. Do you agree?


"It is the height of journalistic irresponsibility."

That's how the United Teachers Los Angeles described the Los Angeles Times' decision to publish a database of about 6,000 third- through fifth-grade city school teachers ranked by their effectiveness in raising student test scores.

TalkBackLAThe database is part of a Times series that rated teachers by using a "value-added" analysis based on seven years of standardized test scores obtained from the Los Angeles Unified School District. The value-added method looks at previous student test performance and estimates how much a teacher added to or subtracted from a student's expected progress.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, had asked The Times not to publish the database. In an interview Sunday on ABC's "This Week," she criticized the paper for using value-added scores in "isolation." In a later statement, she said the union is "disturbed that teachers will now be unfairly judged by incomplete data masked as comprehensive evaluations."

In the video above, Times Database Editor Doug Smith explains how the database was put together and addresses criticism generated by it.

What do you think? Share your views below.

Comments () | Archives (54)

"Randi Weingarten [..] criticized the paper for using value-added scores in "isolation."" Well, Randi, we would have loved to see your organization's evaluation of teachers, and it would have been fine and dandy to have other scores as part of the mix besides the LA Times' "effectiveness" criteria. Where's that evaluation, though? Oh, I see, you're against ANY evaluation of teachers. It's mind boggling that it takes a media organization like the LA Times to both compile and publish data that should form the basis on which a school district like the LAUSD conducts its business. How are schools run in this district?

How else are teachers going to be held accountable? The union protects every teacher good and bad. Principles have to go through mountains of red tape to get even the egregiously poor teachers out of the classroom. UTLA hates the monitoring of classroom teaching. How else are you supposed to tell what is going on inside each teacher's classroom? Please answer this question UTLA! I believe this is the most effective approach to "rat" out all the poor performing teachers. If UTLA not going to bend over the help get rid of the poor performers, maybe public "recognition" will help. And please don't give me this evaluation doesn't work, in our school there are no surprises who the poor performers are.

Teacher evaluations irresponsible? It should be mandatory! The teachers union is only against this because their job is to protect the teachers...even the bad ones! Everyone, including the parents have a right to know how their children's teachers are doing. Those who are doing a bad job should be removed for good ones. Tenure should be changed to be based on job performance (test scores). LAUSD is too big and needs to be reorganized and overhauled.

Here is the problem with value-added analysis. Did you take into account whether students who scored low were in class at all? Did you take into account any environmental factors as to why students may have scored low? Did you take into account whether those students who were tested were performing at grade-level?
I am a teacher and I perform fairly well, however, each of the questions above creates a different variable for value-added analysis. In an area where these issues are moot because parents have money to care for their children, you may run into children who are going through a divorce when they take the test. Yet, for poor children, the questions above are very real.
Yet, you want to judge all teachers on the same value-added analysis model. In the culture of poverty, this is impossible because there are too many variables.

LAUSD is responsible for the most precious resource our city has ... our future. If the union can come up with a better evaluation system then I expect them to present it, however just saying that this evaluation is not broad enough so we shouldn't evaluate, seems like an excuse for an overall poor performance. If I am doing poorly in my job I am fired. It should be the same with the people who hold our most valuable resources in their hands.

No excuses LAUSD. I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed.

There are no doubt teachers that are substandard. But in my experience with two students of my own, success in school is the teachers responsibilty, its my child and mine. Even when the math teacher wasn't the best, they still had to learn the material and pass the class because thats the rule and its not negotiable.

The teachers can't make kids learn if the kids are not there to learn. That is parenting plain and simple. To the extent that if you have a student that has trouble with grades, its your responsibilty as a parent to get them the help they need. No child is so severly limited they can't be successful. If you don't agree, just look in the mirror for the cause.

@Bruce: Every evaluation system isn't perfect. However, when teachers perform year are year (7 years), and they are consistently leaving kids worse off before they got them - Then I think there is a problem. I understand you don't even like it as one tool for evaluation however Bruce, what would your solution be? UTLA doesn't like administrators in the classrooms, they don't want coaches in the classroom. Also I understand your socioeconomic concerns, however all teachers in a given school are under the same condition and have the same variables. What allows one teacher to perform, YEAR AFTER YEAR, better than the other?

In one semester in High School I had the best English teacher that continues to inspire me when I write, and I had the worst science teacher that I continue to despise for his disdain for the subject, his laziness in teaching, and practiced and institutionalized incompetence. Guess who made more money? Tenured and a veteran teacher, he merely needed to avoid criminality to get his good wages and undeserved retirement, immune from his peers and generations of students he under-served. VALUE ADDED IS LIKE SUNSHINE, FOR THE BLOOD SUCKING LEACHES IT IS DEATH and FRUIT TREE IT IS LIFE

Some of the teacher comments posted here and actions like "cancel your LA Times subscription" and protests outside the LAT building are embarrassing. I love LA teachers and our kid got an excellent K-12 education from LAUSD. My wife and I knew it wasn't the school or the scores that mattered but the individual teachers. The LAT article came to the same conclusion.

I see teacher comments who complain about the socioeconomic status of their students, or the lack of involvement by parents etc etc.

Have you read the article or the FAQ? Have you done your homework?

This article is not about which teacher had the students who scored the highest scores. This article is about teachers who consistently got most of their students to improve their test scores. No matter where they started. No matter where they ended. They improved.

Sure the tests may be stupid. They may not matter. Many of the highest scoring teachers will tell you that. But there is something to be said about teachers who consistently manage to grab the attention of their students, get them interested in the subject matter and learn it better than their peers next door.

The way my wife and I picked schools and teachers in the last 12 years was by going to open houses, looking at the work on the classroom walls, talking to the students and teachers. Our criterion was "which teacher will keep our kid engaged and interested in learning". Some teachers were serious, some were goofy but all the good ones had the talent to grasp their students' attention and engage them in the subject matter.

I don't know how they did that but they should be showing videos of their classroom performance to other teachers to learn.

My daughter taught a year in one of the bankrupt inner-city schools, a high school for students who had dropped out and returned to school or were in danger of dropping out. She flunked half her students to the dismay of the administration and other teachers. There was one pupil that they particularily wanted her to pass, as this was the last year students didn't have to pass the state test to graduate and everyone knew that the girl would never pass it. My daughter gave the student extension after extension to complete her assignments but she didn't so my daughter flunked her. My daughter says that No Child Left Behind would never work because none of the teachers would want to teach in the inner city where the students aren't motivated, but in the Valley where they are. I am not saying there aren't dedicated teachers who turn students around, my daughter's sixth grade teacher turned her from a lackadaisal student to a serious one and inspired her to become a teacher also. But there are very few of these charismatic teachers. The teacher unions are only interested in their tenure and benefits, and not the students-it used to be different. I went to Catholic school, when they had the nuns, and things were much different there.

"Methinks thou doth protest too much."

LAUSD and UTLA are interchangeable. The teacher's union runs LAUSD. On one hand, they cry that they are "desperate for money or the children will suffer and class size will increase!"

Yet, in the same breath, they would reject participation in the Federal Stimulus that could mean hundreds of millions of dollars?

This is the same cast of characters who pushed through the bond measures that lead this city to build the 3 most expensive schools in North America!

As a city, Los Angeles is a national disgrace. Don't expect any apologies from the LAUSD Board Members, elected officials, or the UTLA. They have no shame!

568 Million to build one school? Oh, by the way, LAUSD now has less than 700,000 students, and overcrowding is not an issue. With 45,000 proud UTLA professionals, that equals about 15 students per class, correct.

The protests of the UTLA and LAUSD are a mere distraction

Did I mention that Los Angeles sends more college age students to prison, than it sends to college? Did I mention that more than 50% of the students are dropping out of school? The students who do stay and graduate are getting a "watered down" version of an education.

The real travesty is that children don't vote and don't have a voice. The UTLA and LAUSD have chosen to serve the special interests and big labor and have forgotten that they the exist to serve the students of Los Angeles. It is not shameful, it is immoral!

The results of the LA Times analysis are not perfect. But they are interesting. And they are news. I haven't heard the Times say that they are a perfect evaluation of a teacher's performance. But we who work in the real world, outside the teaching profession, are evaluated all the time and there are lots of reasons that those evaluations are not perfect. But they count for something, and in an imperfect system, they are all we got.

The public does not have the right to evaluate teachers. That is what administrators are for. If you don't like your child's school, then go to another one. My child went to an AMAZING LAUSD school on a permit because we weren't happy with her home school.

I think the Times posting the scores/evaluations was a big plus for families like ours who feel like we are at the mercy of LAUSD as the district pretty much treats us the way they want to....and the treatment is such that no one is asking for seconds. At least now, some of our supicions about less than effective teachers have been verified; and many teachers have been put on notice publically.

There were flaws with the information and scoring, i.e., one teacher who was at our students school (Cowan) was listed as being at another elementary. The scoring was spot on "least effective" but it would help if the data showed that this teacher was at a school in the Westchester area.

Other ratings for teachers at our school were not necessarily rated fairly or accurately. One phenomenal teacher was rated low; she has a fantastic reputation in all areas among parents, students and her colleagues. Another teacher who received very low marks for the past three years has had classrooms where it seems that many of the children with behavioral issues (identified and not)have been piled on top of her. If teachers are going to get low or high ratings, lets also share what they are dealing with in the classroom.

When can we expect to see information about the principals and their ratings?

"Union"...another name for "Socialism". Should be abolished everywhere as no longer necessary and destructive to America, by almost any measure. Have destroyed, to name a few: Passenger rail, airlines, steel, autos, etc, etc. As a defense against them, their jobs have been shipped elsewhere leaving them wondering around in a daze, unable to understand what has happened to their jobs...again destructive to America. And now Education. What, in the state of our kids education, is to recommend the union's involvement in that education? Enough of Unions everywhere/anywhere!!!!

Standardized tests are the bane of the US public education system. They prove nothing except that a lowest common denominator and they are by no means any real measure of a teacher's worth.

I looked up my daughter's teachers.

I was SHOCKED that the ones who taught her so much were ranked in 'less effective'. We loved that teacher! He was engaging and hands on and taught history and science.

I was also shocked to see that her 5th grade teacher was "more effective". This was also a shock because in his class, my child was bored and never had homework or projects. The parent conference with him was a waste of time as he had no data or even the report card to give us!

What a sham. Shame on you, LA Times. There are some good teachers getting a bad rap and some bad teachers thinking they are doing it right.


Three cheers for the LA Times! There is no organizations that are bigger threats to the future prosperity of our country than the teachers unions. The teachers unions are the only organized body that is permitted to profit at the expense of our children. Publicize and shine a light on the incompetence these unions protect and maybe you can shame these greedy parasites into finding a new line of work.

Finally, the unions are forced to come clean about what is really more important to them--fairness to teachers or fairness to children. If only our politicians had the guts to insist that children are more important than fairness to incompetent teachers.

The simplest way to break the death grip of teachers unions is to amend the state constitution to cut teachers salaries by 50% and to tax public employee union dues. Cutting pay will get rid of the teachers who are in it for the money and encourage teachers who teach because they love to teach. With the money we save, we can cut class sizes and hire more good teachers. And by cutting salaries we can starve the unions to death. It's all good. Teachers unions are a cancer that needs to be excised.

Yes, I do agree with UTLA President Duffy that the LA Times is being irresponsible in publishing the test scores. I am a 20 year retired veteran (teacher/mentor teacher) of the elementary schools (LAUSD) and before that I worked for about 10 years in the LAUSD Children Centers.

Frankly, the LA Times has always been one of my favorite newspapers for
in depth, well-researched reporting, but I was very disappointed with your
series on grading teachers.

May I recommend that the Times and parents (and the public in general)
SYSTEM How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education, written
by the distinguished historian of education, Diane Ravich. If you have not
read this blockbuster of a book, you owe it to yourself and our children
to bring yourself up-to-date on this matter.

If they did the same test/evaluation in Charter or private schools, you would see the same mix of good and bad results. The times likes to demonize the LAUSD for their own corporate gains. The times is using this witch hunt to advance a political agenda and sell papers. The public once again is being misled.

Are some teachers good, yes, are some teachers bad, yes. Do some teacher connect with some kids and not all? Answer to that is YES. One test result on presumed improvement of Childs performance is a false indicator of teacher effectiveness. A child’s home life, parental support, economic situation, and personal health all effect test scores.

Just as one poor test result does not label the child as unreachable with limited intelligence. Test results from one year of data cannot mark a teacher as ineffective.

What is the real agenda LA Times?

The teachers are not to blame, entirely, for why children don't learn. The parents should take perhaps 70% of the responsibility. But, the teachers through their union have ruined the public schools. The public schools are now run as private feeding troughs for these public "servants" (I say that loosely, since the public seems to serve them, with lavish benefits and salaries, yes, salaries: you only work 9 months for that salary!). It's sort of embarassing to be judged by the public like this, but, oh well. The teachers union plays dirty against the public, so now the public gets access to the teachers' performance data.

RE: The following post:

The simplest way to break the death grip of teachers unions is to amend the state constitution to cut teachers salaries by 50% and to tax public employee union dues. Cutting pay will get rid of the teachers who are in it for the money and encourage teachers who teach because they love to teach. With the money we save, we can cut class sizes and hire more good teachers. And by cutting salaries we can starve the unions to death. It's all good. Teachers unions are a cancer that needs to be excised.

Posted by: JeffL | August 31, 2010 at 08:36 AM

Jeff, do you have any idea what teachers make? You are either joking (which I hope) or you must have failed math in school (which I suspect is more likely).

You want people to work 65+ hours per week taking care of and teaching YOUR children for a starting salary of around $20,000/year.

On top of that, you want to impose draconian rules on their right to fair representation?

We have a word for that in this country. It's called "slavery." And it failed miserably the first time.

Nobody who teaches is in it for the money. If they are, they're stupid, because the money just isn't there.

When you have a real solution to the problem, I'll be glad to hear it. Until then, you should keep your thoughts to yourself and let the grownups talk.

I think the name should NOT be published in the newspaper. This evaluation is used for personnel decisions and should not be made public. Does the LA Times release personnell evaluation to fellow employees so they will know how they rank compare to co-workers. I don't think so. Why will any one want to become a teacher.

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