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Commentary: Big artillery in the value-added wars

Alan Gottlieb is the publisher of Education News Colorado. The views expressed in his commentaries are his alone and do not represent the editorial position of EdNews or its staff.

Researchers from Harvard and Columbia recently released the results of a massive study of the impact of teaching on student success, in school and later in life. The study tracked 2.5 million students over 20 years. The New York Times featured the study in an article last Friday. Value-added measures have been one of the hot-button issues in education, especially since the Los Angeles Times released its analysis of teacher effectiveness in 2010, naming names.

The study found that “great teachers create great value – perhaps several times their annual salaries – and that test score impacts are helpful in identifying such teachers.”

But it also cautioned that:

more work is needed to determine the best way to use VA for policy. For example, using VA in teacher evaluations could induce undesirable responses that make VA a poorer measure of teacher quality, such as teaching to the test or cheating.

People will likely view this study through the lens of their preconceived notions and biases. Those who disparage value-added methodology will find ways to shoot holes in this study, while those who favor using test scores as a means of evaluating teacher effectiveness will say it conclusively bolsters their case.

Here is a video of one of the study’s authors presenting its findings. Let us know what you think.

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