Sunday, August 29, 2010


by smf for 4LAKidsNews

I explored the database on The Times website and took it for a spin. Much if what I found confirmed my preconceptions and jumped-to-conclusions. Teachers I believe to be good, bad or indifferent turned up good, bad or indifferent – though not necessarily as I expected. 

But then again – I’m not in charge of evaluating teachers. And neither is the LA Times!

Schools that I know to be excellent – and are judged by API scores to be excellent – get favorably ranked by The Times.  But again – not universally. Wonderland Avenue hits it out of the park – but even they have one underperforming teacher if one is to take The Times word for it …and one shouldn't!

Mt Washington School and Colfax Avenue – similar schools to Wonderland – don’t fare  as well  – API Wonderful, LA Times Not-so-good.

Then it began to dawn on me – These LA Times scores are an awful lot like the Newsweek Best Schools in The Nation Issue: ranked 1-to-10 - based on a single criteria.

  • The Newsweek Best Schools Issue sells a lot of magazines.
  • The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue sells a lot of magazines …with very little swimsuits.
  • These data, as perceived by the Times Editorial Board, are ‘sexy’. As the marketeers like t0 say: They ‘attract eyeballs’.

I picked a random teacher – truly random, my first click. A teacher I don’t know - and looked at her scores

She teaches fifth grade at a pretty well regarded school in the valley. She scored “less effective” overall and in in math and English effectiveness – by The Times criteria she needs improvement.

Her name and school is now public knowledge – out there on the Internet for all the world to see. I’m not going to go there – teachers are not public officials or celebrities ar reality show contestants whose lives and careers should be exposed to such public scrutinty. But if you want to look her up she’s here

Here’s what The Times says about this teacher:

Compared with other Los Angeles Unified teachers on the value-added measure of test score improvement, [this teacher] ranked:
  • Less effective than average overall.
  • Less effective than average in math. Students of teachers in this category, on average, lost about 4 percentile points on the California Standards Test compared with other students at their grade level.
  • Less effective than average in English. Students of teachers in this category, on average, lost about 3 percentile points on the California Standards Test compared with other students at their grade level.

Here’s what she has to say for herself:

“I think that teachers should be evaluated and I agree that some teachers are more effective than others. But to base effectiveness solely on test scores puts too much emphasis on something that is really just one of the tools teachers use to improve instruction. Evaluating teachers in this way will only lead to teachers teaching to a test rather than a classroom of children.

“I teach at a high performing school. The students who come into my classroom have excellent test scores - proficient and advanced. Some even have perfect scores of 600. So, if those students maintain their perfect scores, that makes me an average teacher because they didn't improve. But if they miss one and score 580, or two and score 560... I'm considered less effective!

“My responsibility is to the whole child, not a test. My goal is to produce healthy, well-equipped students who are good problem solvers in the classroom and on the yard. In addition to our rigorous curriculum of reading and math, it is also my responsibility to teach art, drama, physical education, computers, health, social studies, and science. I strive to bring the curriculum to life and provide opportunities for students to explore visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning. However, my first and foremost responsibility as a teacher is to foster the love of learning. As a result, I have a positive, hardworking, successful classroom filled with students who want to be there and enjoy learning.

“I'm afraid this article will just discourage teachers who put their heart and soul into their job while facing increasing class sizes, limited professional development, and diminishing resources.”

Very well put. Good luck this year.

THE TIMES DATABASE PAGE INVITED ME TO OTHER DATABASES THEY’VE PUBLISHED – including a list of all City of LA employees and their salaries.  Fair is fair; remember …last year? The Daily News shared the list of all LAUSD employees and their salaries.

Except The Times list doesn’t include the employees names – only their job descriptions!

What, gentle readers, is with that?

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