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National Teaching Expert Calls “Value Added” Performance Metric Unreliable

A national education expert last week delivered a less-than-stellar assessment of the nation's school reform efforts before a Cleveland audience. Linda Darling-Hammond is an education professor at Stanford, and led President Obama's education transition team in 2008.

Speaking at the City Club of Cleveland, Darling-Hammond pointed to numerous areas where she says the U.S. lags behind the top performing nations in education - from its graduation rate, scholastic achievement and college readiness, to federal support and equal access to high quality schools.  She said the U.S. has to choose its reforms wisely.  One she warned against involves teacher evaluation. 

The “value-added” model requires teachers to show progress based on test scores each year.  Darling-Hammond says it’s been shown to unfairly punish already high-performing teachers. 

“I’m a research who was very interested and enthusiastic about value added a few years ago, who has, among many other researchers, found that it has a lot more difficulty and problems than we realized,” Darling Hammond said.  “So the National Research Council has recently come out to say value added should not be used, because it’s very unstable.  It’s unreliable.  It turns out that it’s biased.”

Ohio began using value-added reports in select districts in 2011, and is slated to include them in all schools beginning next year.  It’s part of the effort to move away from seniority and education credentials as the primary factors in teacher retention decisions.  Value-added reports will account for 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation.

The education bill that Gov. John Kasich unveils this week could contain the "outcome-based approach" of education finance pioneer Eric Hanushek, which ties funding to achievement. Another is giving parents more control over education dollars as advocated by former Washington, D.C., schools superintendent Michelle Rhee.

Kasich has also signaled interest in increased classroom spending as detailed by Marguerite Roza of The Center on Reinventing Public Education and expanding online courses like those developed by Google's Sebastian Thrun for Udacity.

Kasich's legislation is the latest attempt to fix Ohio's unconstitutional school-funding system, repeatedly declared overly reliant on property taxes.

Stories from the Associated Press.