Outcry after US paper 'names and shames' 6,000 teachers in 'ludicrous' league table

10th September 2010 at 01:00
Union plans protest over publication, but some claim staff should be accountable

Furious elementary teachers in Los Angeles have blasted a newspaper for publishing a table ranking them by name, according to pupils' value-added scores.

The Los Angeles Times has published a database showing the effectiveness of 6,000 named teachers based on their pupils' maths and English test results.

The newspaper argued that the move was justified as parents have no information on teachers' effectiveness, even though they are such an important element in children's education. It added that value-added scores were not the whole picture and that parents may also want to consider other factors.

It has also published comments from teachers, almost all of which are against the move.

Eloisa Martinez - described as a fifth-grade teacher at Dorris Place Elementary in 2007 - was rated as one of the area's most effective maths teachers and more effective than average in English. She said: "Shame on the Los Angeles Times for publicly shaming my colleagues ... It is ludicrous to think that this database can accurately rank our performance."

Others have pointed out that the scores do not take into account the fact they may not have been teaching for some of the years covered, or had been teaching children other than those in their home class. One teacher said that she had been rated in her first few years' teaching, while others said that students had poor attendance or support from parents and this was not taken into account.

Wendy A Harris, a fifth-grade teacher at Broadacres Avenue Elementary in 2008, was deemed "less effective" at maths, but noted: "My math score was calculated without me even having taught that subject; my partner teacher taught the math to students on my roster."

But a few teachers agreed with the publication of the data.

Jenin V Vergara, who has left teaching to take a masters, said: "I may be in the minority but I think the data and value-added ratings should be made public. As teachers, we are employees of the state and should be held accountable to the taxpayers that give us our salaries."

The United Teachers Los Angeles union has condemned the publication as "deeply flawed" and a demonstration outside the Los Angeles Times building is due to be held on September 14.

In the UK, Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads' union the NAHT, said that he doubted such "naming and shaming" would help attract people into the profession.

"Every headteacher will know the individual performance of teachers and pupils in their school," he said. "To have that information used in a conversation between a manager and teacher to improve performance is one thing, that's good, but once you take it outside and use it in a very public way to praise or condemn teachers, that stands in the way of school improvement."


Method but no context

The value-added method used by the Los Angeles Times compared test scores over time and did not take into account other factors such as gender, socio-economic status or first language, which are incorporated in the contextual value-added scores used in the English league tables.

The data analysed was spread over six years and only for teachers who had taught 60 or more students.

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