San Diego's new crystal ball

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While efforts in California to use value-added data to judge a teacher's effectiveness have been blocked by that state's legislature, the San Diego school district will be experimenting with the controversial methodology to help them learn which students are in danger of failing, while supposedly keeping teachers out of the picture.

The district signed a one-year contract with value-added guru Bill Sanders and his lucrative company, SAS, to analyze five years' worth of student data. By matching the history of performance of those students who failed, for example, 9th grade algebra with much younger students who appear to be on the same trend line towards failure, the district can intervene earlier.

School district officials are adamant that the project isn't about linking students' test score results with the names of the teachers who taught them, but that hasn't stopped the local teachers' union from getting its back up. Camille Zombro, president of the union, argued the money could have been better spent, especially considering that the school board has threatened mid-year budget cuts.

The district has yet to decide whether the data will be released to students or their parents.