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LAUSD Follows Lead of Los Angeles Times, Adopts New Value-Added Method of Grading Student Progress, Teachers

Updated after the jump with the differences between the Times' and LAUSD's grading criteria.

When the Los Angeles Times unrolled a list of 6,000 Los Angeles teachers, ranked in order of whose students were showing the most improvements on standardized tests, a huge corner of the community (and by that we mostly mean the teachers' union) was extraordinarily butthurt. The Times was naming names, and educators could no longer hide behind the harmonious, one-for-all United Teachers Los Angeles front.

That the L.A. Board of Education followed in reporters' footsteps today, announcing a new "Academic Growth Over Time" system to measure student progress, affirms a huge shift...

... toward open-minded reform at an executive level.

Because in the end, the ratings won't be about kids. They'll be about the adults we pay to guide them.

In today's presser on the board's decision, the Los Angeles Unified School District recruits a scientist to explain the difference between the Times investigation and the district's endeavor:

"What the Los Angeles Times did with value-added research was merely reporting. What the LAUSD is doing with Academic Growth over Time is preparing the numbers and using the data to generate change to help educators, principals and support staff to in turn teach our students and help them in their academic achievements," Rob Myer, University of Wisconsin Value Added Research Center, explained.

District officials are clearly feeling the pressure from another huge Times release of teacher grades, due out in about a month. Combined with last August's eye-opening list, the big (yet absolutely specific) picture of weaknesses within the district will be all the clearer.

From what we can tell, the district's own rating system will be mechanically the same as similar to the Times' -- just employed differently. Aka, parents won't be able to peruse which individual teachers score badly, just how the schools are doing overall. [Those numbers should be posted here by tomorrow.]

Update: The district's results might actually differ greatly. Here's why, via LAUSD policy specialist Sarah Figueroa:

Model differences: There are differences in the models, some of which has to do with the amount of data available to the Times and some to do with modeling choices. In terms of data, the Times did not have access to many of the student demographic characteristics that have been incorporated into our model.

Results reported: While the LA Times has reported a school-wide result, our results separate English Language Arts and math. The Times has also aggregated results across multiple years, while we are reporting one year and three year results.

Reporting precision: While more complex, our results include a measure of statistical confidence, so that we only report positive or negative AGT results when the data supports that level of precision.

KPCC also held a highly informative roundtable on the subject.

But still -- it's a huge step toward accountability. Coupled with a new court ruling that seniority can't influence which teachers are laid off first, this comprehensive system for measuring teacher effectiveness could actually lead to the honing of the public workforce. Including teachers' own self-awareness, seeing as they'll have access to the scores.

It's all thanks to the Teacher Effectiveness Task Force -- birthed in 2008 by level-headed board member Yolie Flores, along with Monica Garcia and Richard Vladovic, in an effort to soldier past the old-fashioned kumbaya crowd for some harsher opportunities in hiring.

Brand-new LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy states his approval today as well:

"As we get more sophisticated in the way in which we use data to accelerate progress, it is critical to support our principals and teachers to understand grade-level and school-level data. This initial set of information positions us to do that."

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]


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