Will Teachers Benefit Most From Effectiveness Ratings?

Last month, when the Los Angeles Times began revealing its value-added teacher effectiveness data—which culminated in ratings of 6,000 third- to fifth-grade teachers—one's gut reaction was: good for parents, disastrous for teachers. And that's the way responses to the data dump have come in: with reformers and parents being ecstatic, while teachers union reps have rolled their eyes.

Today, Times investigative reporter Jason Felch and Beth Shuster, the paper's K-12 education editor, discussed on a conference call with the reporters some of the logistics, decisions, and reaction associated with the package of stories and the ratings, which were based on raw data supplied by the Los Angeles Unified School District. Both Felch and Shuster expressed pleasant surprise at responses from teachers, which demonstrated that many of them were actually clamoring for feedback on their performance.

Felch noted that a third-grade teacher featured in a Times piece as an example of an ineffective one immediately asked what she could do to improve when he revealed her value-added rating. Shuster added that a special ed teacher, who was not eligible to be rated because she didn't teach enough students, requested that the paper do an assessment of her and other special ed instructors.

The teachers desperately want more information, Shuster said:

When we opened up the database for teacher comments, before it went live on the website, we had a number of teachers who wrote into us requesting their private page—where they could see what their ratings are. And even before they got that information, they were asking us, "What more can you give us? Are you just going to give us this one number? Are you going to give us math and English broken out? How much more can you give me? I'm planning for the upcoming school year." I mean, these people are asking a newspaper for this information. It just strikes me that these people are victims of the system. The district has not done anything to help these people. they've never gone in and helped these people in anyway, the good ones or the bad ones.


The problem of teachers not getting decent feedback is not only a problem at the district level, but also within schools, said Felch. And the issue stemmed from identifying which teachers needed help. He noted that some principals were able to correctly point out who their most effective teachers were—at least on this narrow, value-added metric—whereas others seemed to have no clue.

To speak very broadly, what we found was that those principals who do spend a lot of time in the classroom—and not all of them do, but, for those principals who are pretty tuned in and paying attention to teacher quality issues—they had a fairly good sense for who their most effective teachers were. ... [W]e found that in several other cases, these are schools that are oftentimes very high achieving schools, they've been under no pressure to improve, and the principals are not very focused on teacher quality. Because the kids come in at a very high level and score very high on achievement tests, they're kind of resting on their laurels. ... It was at those schools where we found a real disconnect between what the principal's point of view was and what the data was telling us.


Felch also expressed shock that Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, told the Times that, though she was against posting value-added ratings, she believes parents should have access to teacher evaluations—a position she shares with Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Though, one consequence of the Times making this data public is that L.A. Unified could have a rough opening to its school year. Concerned parents might start to ask questions about why their third, fourth, or fifth-grade student is assigned to a poorly rated teacher. "That's kind of a marketplace at work, isn't it?" asks Shuster. "This is some information that parents have never seen before, never had. They've only been able to rely on parking lot chatter, what they hear about a teacher, what their kids tell them about a teacher."

Still, the data could end up doing a lot of good for teachers and for principals in the long run, allowing L.A. Unified to better train its teaching staff and offer a more uniform educational experience to its students. That is, if the school district—which is voting today to open the door to adding value-added data to teacher evaluations—doesn't make any rash, personnel decisions first.

Photo via Irfan Khan for The Los Angeles Times.

via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

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For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

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In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

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In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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