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LA Times Story on Teacher Effectiveness

Original post made by javadoc, Dublin, on May 8, 2011

Link is here: Web Link

It is a study of teacher effectiveness using a value-added model. The sidebar link to the paper detailing the statistical and modeling aspects of the study are worth a look. The punch lines are:

1. Good teachers matter a great deal to the performance of students.

2. Teacher background, training, and ongoing education have a very small effect on teacher quality.

3. Variation in teacher quality is greater in "Math" than in "English."

As the parcel tax debate continues, you should think about why step-and-column automatic raises remain non-negotiable, when their rationale may be invalid. Is there a body of modern research showing otherwise than is claimed in this latest study?

Note that the authors found that teachers had overcome their first-year jitters by the third year, when their performance did not differ hugely from teachers with 10 or more years of experience.

Comments (11)

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Posted by And to think...
a resident of Ruby Hill
on May 10, 2011 at 8:12 pm

Many people in this town don't think that our teachers make much of a difference when it comes to test scores. Thank you for the story.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rita
a resident of Downtown
on May 10, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Seriously? The LA Times? Come on let's hear from a news source not an extension of the Daily Kos.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by fleabagger willy
a resident of California Reflections
on May 10, 2011 at 9:14 pm

I agree with Rita. Ever since the LATimes a few years back came under new conservative, corporate ownership, their writers and editorialists have been smuggling in Marxist viewpoints every chance they get. Today I read Jonah Goldberg (kinna sounds like Rosa Luxumberg doesn't it) claiming that Obama shouldn't have told us about killing Osame bin Laden; that Obama did it for political gain. Can you detect the strong veins of Marxist thinking there? They might as well call it the Moscow Times. It's great we have well-informed contributors like Rita keeping tabs on where the commies are lurking in our midst.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by javadoc
a resident of Dublin
on May 11, 2011 at 9:29 am

javadoc is a registered user.

"And to think": I will take you up on your moniker's implication!

The study concludes that good teachers are crucial to student learning and performance. How do we know who are the really good teachers, and who are not? If this is "all about the kids," and having good teachers is crucial, then it is our duty to ensure that the best teachers are rewarded and retained, and the not-so-good teachers are shown the door.

How does PUSD measure the quality of teachers? The step and column framework tells you that the district believes that continuing education will improve teachers' quality. The study does not support this conclusion, nor do most of the other modern studies cited in the technical paper accompanying the article. Pleasanton residents are paying more and more money each year for teacher salaries - to the exclusion of other facets of education - based on a quality "measure" for which there doesn't seem to be empirical support.

I have taught at a low level (while in graduate school), and have seen teachers through the entire educational gauntlet, all the way to graduate degrees from an Ivy League school. The guy who taught the mechanics course in my first year of grad school went on to win the Nobel Prize a couple years later. Clearly he knew his stuff, but he was a lousy teacher.

Great teachers are great communicators. They have a "gift" for explaining what they already know. I tend to think that you can't develop that gift if you don't have it, and certainly not if you aren't being measured and pressured to improve.

As negotiations on future budgets commence, you should be asking the district how they measure teacher quality, and how you KNOW you are getting value for your tax dollars as you dig deeper to fund S&C raises.

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Posted by question
a resident of Birdland
on May 11, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Hey javadoc,

" and how you KNOW you are getting value for your tax dollars as you dig deeper to fund S&C raises."

Maybe Dublin needs to focus on that. Dublin schools are the ones with the poor outcomes and low test scores. Seems like something is broken with Dublin schools.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by javadoc
a resident of Dublin
on May 11, 2011 at 2:51 pm

javadoc is a registered user.


Absolutely. I believe there is a need (and room) for improvement in most, if not all, government schools.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Arnold
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 11, 2011 at 5:18 pm


Since you are from Dublin, what are your thoughts on the Dublin School Boards plan to pursue a Parcel Tax, General Obligation Bonds, or a Utility User Tax?

Web Link

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Posted by javadoc
a resident of Dublin
on May 12, 2011 at 2:51 pm

javadoc is a registered user.

I don't have a well-informed opinion yet. I am only now gearing up for the fight, learning the ropes and doing preliminary research, seeing what the stakeholders' positions tend to be.

I will say that I am automatically skeptical of any call for more money from government school systems, and that my interest in the operation of the local school district is more from a taxpayer/property owner perspective than from a "prospective customer" perspective, since my wife and I are saving so that we (hopefully) have the option of private school when our son reaches school age in a couple years. That would be the case no matter where we lived.

Looks like there is quite the scuffle over the proposed new high school serving the eastern side of town.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by George
a resident of another community
on May 12, 2011 at 3:54 pm


Do you think your children are going to get a better education at a private school? In Dublin, that could be the case. In Palo Alto, maybe not. In any case how do you feel about government college? Would you send you children to government college?

 +   Like this comment
Posted by George
a resident of another community
on May 12, 2011 at 3:57 pm


I'm curious, did you attend government schools? Government college? I'm wondering why you think they are all that much worse than private ones.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by javadoc
a resident of Dublin
on May 12, 2011 at 8:53 pm

javadoc is a registered user.

I attended government schools through my undergraduate degree (Chemistry), then attended a private university for my graduate degrees, also in Chemistry.

My son can attend any college he likes, if he wants to go to college. If we have saved enough money to pay for his college education and he makes a choice we do not like, he will probably pay for the education himself. That is a long way off, but my wife and I both are of the same mind on this.

I have much research to do yet on the local schools, and the comparative quality of the private and government schools. It may be that in a course based more on undisputed facts, he can get a good education in either setting. I am wary of the philosophical and political attitudes of the teachers creeping into the classroom.

My greatest hesitation with government schools is the presence of unionized teachers. I would rather not do business with people who have organized against me.

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