Teachers respond

On Sunday, The Times made public a database of "value-added" ratings for about 6,000 Los Angeles Unified School District teachers. Rankings from "least effective" to "most effective" were assigned to teachers based on an analysis of whether they consistently raised or lowered their students' scores on standardized tests. Teachers were allowed to review their scores in advance and post comments if they wished. We have excerpted some teachers' responses below. Their full comments and those of other teachers can be found on our searchable database at projects.latimes.com/value-added


Irma Estrada

Gledhill Street Elementary

Teachers need information, tools and support. Targeting them by name ... is degrading and disrespectful to a population of educators who put a lot of heart and soul (not to mention time and money) into a job that is not properly compensated, and presents a whole slew of challenges that go beyond scores on a test.


Benjamin Nnanna Ofoha

Harrison Street Elementary

I think The Times has done an excellent job here and should be commended. Teachers need to know how well they are meeting their students' academic needs year after year. Those teachers whose students are not performing well need to know and seek help to modify their teaching strategies, and those teachers whose students are doing well need to know that too.


Helen Steinmetz

Carthy Center Elementary

I fear that the emphasis on test scores will encourage more teaching to the test instead of the much more important skills such as critical thinking in both math and language arts.

It will encourage a quantity-over-quality approach to teaching that adds no value whatsoever to student achievement.

This data would have been put to better use if it were not made public. It demeans our profession and the teachers who try their utmost to do a difficult job.


William Matthew Covely

Langdon Avenue Elementary

For the most part, the yearly state tests are fair and comprehensive. But what I think The Times has done in this large and complex debate, essentially, is jump the gun on the value-added theory and has, in the process, unjustly damaged the reputation of thousands.

According to a study just released by the U.S. Department of Education ... about 90% of the determinants of standardized test scores are beyond the control of classroom teachers.... Further, researchers found that value-added models of evaluating teachers, such as the one The Times is using, are currently "unstable" predictors of future individual teacher performance.


Joan Fowles Lavery

Wilbur Avenue Elementary

This type of evaluation will lead to teachers teaching to a test. As we know, students who take preparatory (practice tests) for SAT and college entrance exams do better than students who do not. If test scores will be used to evaluate teachers, then teachers will work on test-taking skills and the limited content on standardized tests rather than teaching the child. It will improve test scores, but will it prepare our students for the real world?

It would be nice if The Times worked for ways to raise revenues for our schools instead of trying to tear teachers down and break our spirits.


Melanie Podley

Ranchito Avenue Elementary

We give students scores to let them know how they rank and where they need to improve. Maybe it's time teachers are given the same. I can't wait for future articles from The Times analyzing what may separate me, an "average" teacher, from an extremely effective one. It's sad that teachers have had to wait for information like this from a newspaper.


Richard Glenn Shimizu

156th Street Elementary

Value-added scores can be a valuable component in evaluating a teacher's effectiveness, but they should not be used as the sole measure.

Here are just a few reasons why: For one thing, standardized tests cover only two subjects -- mathematics and English language arts. Second, the value-added method totally ignores the number of students in a given teacher's classroom. Of course, a teacher with 35 students will have a much more difficult time increasing student test scores than a teacher with only 20 students. The value-added method also does not recognize that many teachers "team teach" with one or more other teachers in the same grade level. Teacher A might teach language arts to all of the students in a grade level, while Teacher B might teach math. Using the value-added method, Teacher A's students' standardized math test scores would not reflect his or her teaching effectiveness, but instead, Teacher B's. Also, if there is even one highly disruptive student in a given classroom, it can affect every student's ability to learn and, thus, his or her standardized test scores.


Justin Albert Ezzi

Park Western Place Elementary

Yes, teachers should be held accountable for children's education, but ... PARENTS need to also be held accountable! I'd love to see a "value-added" measure for parents.


Gavino Santiago Bisarra

Madison Elementary

I am a veteran of the Persian Gulf War and currently an Army Reservist. I mention this because I have been a teacher, employed by the LAUSD since 2001, but I have only spent seven years in the classroom due to military mobilizations. I started as a first-grade teacher until my first mobilization in 2003. In 2005, I returned to the classroom when my mobilization ended as a fourth-grade teacher. Just as I was gaining momentum, I was mobilized again. So my teaching career has been impacted by my military service, but there is no room for that data in your statistics.

I will ultimately use this experience to better myself as a teacher, but I feel your publication has crossed the line by naming individuals in this manner. I suppose my naivete has gotten me again, for I expected more from The Times than this sensationalized piece constructed obviously to titillate.


Ashley Collett Tanger

Tulsa Street Elementary

The real truth is that I get evaluated by more than 30 people every day I teach. I get evaluated on whether or not I listen to them when they tell me things that they have never told anyone else. I get evaluated when I see in a child's eyes that they do not understand and I need to come up with three other ways to present a concept to them. I get evaluated when I have to break up a fight or mend a friendship. I get evaluated when I stay after school to help kids with homework whose parents can't or, worse, won't.... According to your research, the only data that matters to my evaluation is the four days out of the year my students are tested, when in reality I see every day as an evaluation.


Shalonda Elaine Proctor

Crescent Heights Elementary

I am a much better teacher today than I was 20 years ago. I am fortunate I had a chance to grow and develop as an educator before The Times published a website with a rating of my performance. I do think we need to maintain high standards for educators. I applaud any effort to improve our educational system. I believe we need a fair and expedient process for terminating teachers who are clearly ineffective.


Cynthia Michell Cramer

Vintage Math/Science/ Technology Magnet

LAUSD's policy in regards to letting go of teachers has been based only on seniority. Maybe now they will look at this data and change their ways!


Janelle Renee Mault

Wilbur Avenue Elementary

I work at a high-performing school. Many of my students enter my classroom with scores already at the proficient and advanced level. It is not uncommon for some to have perfect scores of 600. Should these students maintain these scores, I would be considered an average teacher because the student did not improve. If a student misses even one or two questions (dropping to 580 or 560), I would be considered to be doing a poor job. This seems unreasonable.

I welcome the notion of meaningful evaluation for teachers and other educators. Reform certainly is in order, but this notion is flawed -- it gives too much weight to test scores with little regard to other factors.


Jennifer Lynn Moreno-Rojas

Lillian Street Elementary

The sad thing is that even though some teachers like myself score more effective than average, it doesn't mean much to school districts or to the state of California. I have proven to be an effective teacher, but I also am one of the many quality teachers who have been laid off in California.

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