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Reputations (and More) at Risk

The insights gained from teacher value-added reports have the potential to benefit schools, students, and communities. However, because these reports are generated from complex statistical methods that rely on inaccurate or incomplete data and have wide margins of error, more responsible use of these reports is needed to reap their benefits—and minimize their risks. My own story is just one example of how this process can go terribly wrong and, in my view, provides a good entry point for reflection on ways to better align our practice of using these reports with the broader purpose of ensuring an excellent education for all students.

For the past three years, I have worked as a sixth- and seventh-grade math teacher in Brooklyn, N.Y. I have had two value-added scores published on the New York Times SchoolBook website which received the scores from the New York City Department of Education through a Freedom of Information Act request. One of these reports omitted all special education students that I taught in an inclusion classroom. The other contained 48 students I never taught. The New York City Department of Education was informed of these mistakes, but refused to generate a corrected report and knowingly released inaccurate data to the media. Unfortunately, I know there are many teachers with similar stories whose professional reputations may have been unduly harmed by the publication of this data.

This negative experience prompted me to think deeply about the potential negative consequences of publishing this data — on teachers and on the school system as a whole. I worry about whether or not I will be able to get a teaching job with this incorrect low-performing label attached to my name. I worry that teachers will avoid working in schools that are under-resourced and under-supported because this may limit their ability to receive high value-added scores. I worry that publicly reporting teachers’ effectiveness will be another reason among many why talented young people will avoid entering the teaching profession or leave just as they are becoming effective teachers.

To read more, visit Harvard Education Publishing Group's Voice in Education blog.