'L.A. Times' Database Angers Teachers, Union
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
First, the L.A. rankings. Here's NPR's Ina Jaffe.
INA JAFFE: Second-grade teacher Elaine Korowitz doesn't see much good coming out of the Times' series publishing the names and rankings of all those teachers online.
BLOCK: I think it's such a negative, negative point of view from the L.A. Times.
JAFFE: But Caroline Lund, her colleague at Wilshire Crest Elementary, was devastated to be ranked on the Times database as one of her school's least effective teachers.
BLOCK: It's not fair. I'm willing to work with the students that are hard, challenged, but it reflects in the L.A. Times by showing me with a low test score.
JAFFE: Lund worries that the L.A. Times database is just going to be a big distraction.
BLOCK: I have so much to do to focus on teaching the students, and I feel like this is going to sidetrack me away from focusing on the students and focusing on defending myself.
JAFFE: The data the paper used came from standardized tests in math and English taken each year. The analysis of the data is known as value added. In other words, based on a child's previous scores, did the next teacher help the child exceed expectations - that is, add value - or not? This kind of data is used to evaluate teachers in many school districts, says Jason Song, one of the lead reporters on the L.A. Times series.
BLOCK: And we knew that value added was not something that the L.A. Unified School District has done. And so we wanted to take a look and do our own analysis to see what information that could tell us about the nation's second-largest school district.
JAFFE: All of the raw data used by the Times was obtained through public records requests. Song says the decision to post the names of the teachers with their rankings was something they thought about long and hard. But teachers, says Song, are public employees and so...
BLOCK: We thought that if we provide enough context for the material, that it would serve the public's interest.
JAFFE: That context was the warning that value-added scores don't tell the whole story of what goes on in a classroom. But A.J. Duffy, the president of United Teachers of Los Angeles, the teachers union, says that's not the way the material will be viewed.
BLOCK: People don't get past the first couple of lines in a story. They see the headline, they see the splash, and that's what sinks in. So for the greatest number of the public, what they're seeing is certain teachers are bad teachers because their standardized test scores over a period of years is bad.
JAFFE: Ina Jaffe, NPR News.
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