Letters: Teachers And Standardized Test Scores

Robert Siegel reads from some listener e-mails about an interview with Los Angeles Times investigative reporter Jason Felch. Felch explained the paper's publication of public school teachers' names along with their students' standardized test scores. Some of our listeners questioned the value of his reporting.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel

And it's time to dig into your email. There were some sharp comments about yesterday's interview with L.A. Times investigative reporter Jason Felch. The paper is revealing data about the effectiveness of public school teachers by publishing numbers showing how much their students improved or fell behind on standardized tests and publishing those numbers with the teachers' names attached. Jason Felch explained the idea behind the data.

Mr. JASON FELCH (Investigative Reporter, L.A. Times): If the student goes up under Miss Judy relative to his peers to the 80th percentile, well, that appears that Miss Judy was doing something right. If the student goes down to the 40th percentile, it suggests that something in Miss Judy's instruction was not working.

SIEGEL: Felch said this is only one measure of a teacher and a narrow one, but some of you thought it was a useless measure. Steve Nuzum of Columbia, South Carolina, questions the value of standardized tests in measuring students.

And as for teachers, he writes this: If Judy consistently gets better test scores out of her students and, if as Felch claims, there is really a way to extrapolate Judy's effect from the mess of variables involved, it proves nothing about Judy's effectiveness as a teacher.

Perhaps she teaches to the test, drilling sample questions with her students instead of teaching more holistically. All we know is that the scores are high. The L.A. Times has sunk fairly low by perpetrating a stunt like publishing the names of individual teachers and their test scores.

And Natasha Kasprzyk of Denver, who identified herself as a teacher, felt we went too far by mentioning a specific teacher the L.A. Times had singled out in its story. She writes: I was mortified that NPR would do something like this. I don't care at all that this is public information.

Does he have any idea how many variables go into the way a classroom operates on a daily basis: home life, peer pressure, hormones, when a student's last meal was, an unsupportive administration? Shall I go on? So is anyone helping this teacher? And if not, why not?

Well, keep holding our feet to the fire. Go to npr.org and click on contact us.

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