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School board approves value-added contract

November 9, 2010 |  6:53 pm

The Los Angeles Board of Education unanimously approved a contract Tuesday with a company that will analyze teachers' effectiveness in raising students' standardized test scores.

The agreement with the University of Wisconsin Value Added Research Center, which does similar work for New York City public schools, could cost about $1.5 million. The first phase of the three-year project should be about $125,000, and school district officials have discussed finding outside funding sources to pay for most of the costs.

Value-added analysis estimates a teacher's effectiveness by measuring a student's year-to-year progress on standardized tests. It has increasingly been adopted by school districts throughout the country and championed by policy makers who say it brings a measure of objectivity to largely subjective teacher evaluations.

Critics say it is an unfair and inaccurate way to evaluate teachers on its own and insist it should be used as only one measure on a performance review.

Los Angeles school board members voted in September to encourage the teachers and administrators unions to accept value-added analysis in evaluations. But the board stressed that it should only be part of an overall evaluation.

The district is currently negotiating with teachers union officials to include value-added scores in formal evaluations, a move the union has strongly resisted.

The University of Wisconsin group would calculate value-added scores for individual teachers. School district officials have said they plan to issue confidential scores to teachers this year.

Another group is calculating schools' value-added marks, which should be released shortly.

The Times published a series of stories earlier this year based on the paper's own value-added analysis, which was based on seven years' worth of student test scores obtained from the school district under the California Public Records Act.

-- Jason Song