One School District's Use Of Value-Added Analysis
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
As we just heard, value-added analysis looks at students' performance on standardized tests from year to year, and then it links teachers to the gains their students make or don't make.
North Carolina's Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School District began using value-added analysis three years ago as a way to evaluate its teachers. And the school's district superintendent, Donald Martin, joins us now. Dr. Martin, welcome to the program.
Dr. DONALD MARTIN (Superintendent, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School District, North Carolina): Thank you very much, Robert.
SIEGEL: And how big a part does value-added analysis play in your assessment of your teachers?
Dr. MARTIN: Well, it's certainly an important part for teachers. It's also an important part for schools. I will say that our state board of education, I think very wisely, passed a policy that says that information is exactly like the teacher evaluation instrument that we would have in a person's, you know, permanent record file.
SIEGEL: And therefore, it's not public information?
Dr. MARTIN: It is not public information in North Carolina. It is treated as your evaluation document, and it is confidential information.
SIEGEL: But how big a factor of a teacher's evaluation is it, that analysis?
Dr. MARTIN: Well, for us, if you have - the system is very simple. It's red, yellow and green. Those are pretty easy ways to look at it. And if you're red, your students are performing two standard errors below your - sort of comparable counterparts. If you're yellow, you're right in the average performance. And if you're green, you're two standard errors above.
And if a teacher has one red, you know, their first year, then we literally just have a - it's like a growth conference with them. They have a personal, you know, individual plan. We talk to them about what are they going to do differently next year.
Then in the second year, if there's two reds in a row, the teacher has consecutive reds, then we have a trigger for what we call a plan of assistance. And that plan of assistance may involve going to training. It may involve sending in some central office folks to work with that person and to really work on, you know, a very formal plan that's now, you know - could trigger dismissal at the end of the year if it is unsuccessful.
SIEGEL: Let me ask you this question about value-added analysis. If I said, here are 10 classrooms. And five of them are teachers who have red ratings, and five of them have greens. And I didn't tell you who is who and you went and looked at the classrooms, do you think you would be able to figure out who the greens are, and who were the reds are? Or is this information at odds or irrelevant to standard ways of evaluating teachers' performance in the classroom?
Dr. MARTIN: In a single observation - I actually think you might be able to in a single observation. I'm sure you could in multiple operations - multiple observations.
SIEGEL: And principals typically are not surprised to learn who's the red and who's the green? Those are the teachers they assume would be in those categories?
Dr. MARTIN: They are not surprised. I think if you - across the country, though, you will find that teacher-evaluation systems are, you know, kind of a Lake Wobegon issue. Everybody is above average.
Dr. MARTIN: And I think you will find that. There's always the wiggle room and the culture. And it's not just a school district culture. It's almost a national culture of teacher evaluations. And I look at that if there's somebody to blame, its central office, it's our group thats to blame. And we have to talk about - sort of an honesty in the evaluation process.
SIEGEL: Well, what do you make of the L.A. Times decision to make the information public?
Dr. MARTIN: Well...
SIEGEL: If it's very useful, why shouldn't parents know this - whos doing well?
Dr. MARTIN: Well, it's the kind - you know, if we had 10 people for every job, and you could just dismiss every one and do that cause if you get - it's just like with any evaluation instrument. We have a duty and in fact, we have to by necessity, you know, try to work with our teachers and improve their instruction. We've got to work with them to perform.
SIEGEL: But just to summarize, as for what the L.A. Times did, if that were done in your system, you would not welcome that - is what I hear you say?
Dr. MARTIN: Exactly. I would not welcome that because I think - and I'm glad it's basically against our state board policy.
Dr. MARTIN: I mean, I think that's good.
SIEGEL: Superintendent Martin, thank you very much for talking with us.
Dr. MARTIN: Thank you.
SIEGEL: That's Donald Martin, who is superintendent in the North Carolina Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School District.
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