The Louisiana Board of Regents is currently considering a plan that would use student achievement data to determine which schools of education are training effective teachers. The program would tie student achievement to specific teachers, then group the teachers? data according to their alma mater, in an effort to identify which training programs in the state are or are not effective. According to an article in the Baton Rouge Advocate, the idea has met with predictable skepticism from opponents who fear using student achievement data as the single arbiter of good teaching. Part of that skepticism stems from questions about the programs design: will it use the Tennessee value-added system or a less fair measure that could end up penalizing teachers for working in low-performing schools?
The question could be valid depending on the approach the state ultimately takes--whether it uses a good value-added design or a design that only loosely considers essential factors such as a student's previous academic standing. Jayne Fleener, the dean of Louisiana State University?s (LSU) college of education where the pilot program took place, says she doesn?t want to end up discouraging students from heading to low-performing schools if their scores could reflect badly upon her program.
The pilot identified significant variance between several unnamed schools?with new teachers graduating from two schools of ed producing lower student gains (as would be expected) than experienced teachers but new teachers from a third school of ed pulling out some surprisingly good results. In mathematics, they produced learning gains that were 5 percent higher than what experienced teachers were able to produce. While the state will undoubtedly enter into a complicated exercise to figure out why one school of ed produced such good results, our bet is that the answer is much simpler in that the institution most likely had higher-than-average admission standards.