One of the larger mysteries of the education debates is why major journalistic outlets keep publishing "research" that is so transparently crap.
Some of this has become a regular thing, like US News' symbiotic relationship with NCTQ, a group that regularly publishes ratings for college programs that don't exist and once "researched" college teacher prep programs by looking through college commencement programs.
But in yesterday's Washington Post, Lyndsey Layton, a real reporter who usually covers actual education news, wasted a chunk of space on
How can anyone measure such a thing, you ask? Simple.
You use teacher ratings to "find" the bad teachers. Teacher ratings are based primarily on test scores, so we "find" the worst teachers by looking for the students with the worst scores.
Then we check to see what kind of scores are achieved by students who are taught by the worst teachers, and-- voila!!-- students who have those teachers get the worst scores!
This is awesome research. It's like asking, "I wonder what color most bad dressers wear? I'll just find all the bad dressers by defining a bad dresser as anyone who wears yellow. The once I've identified those bad dressers, I will check to see what colors they're wearing! And I'll make the ratings all in numbers, because numbers are magical."
Ironically, it is exactly the kind of test-based teacher ratings and the attempts to tie those ratings to job security and even pay in some locations that turns the whole scenario into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because if you are an excellent teacher with a high ranking, why would you want to go to a school where the less test-adept students will tank your rating? Linking test results to teacher ratings and teacher ratings to professional rewards turns every high-poverty, low-achieving school into Career Ender Academy. And all without ever truly measuring actual teacher effectiveness.
Layton includes the disclaimer about
This continues to be one of the most frustrating features of the reformster commandeering of education policy-- people who don't know what the hell they're talking about constantly being treated as if they are legitimate experts, while people who actually work in the field have no say and are reduced to things like cranky posts on backwater blogs. It's as if the discussion of quantum physics was suddenly dominated by sixth graders or hospital surgical protocols were set by airplane pilots. It is truly deeply senseless.