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LA Times releases new, modified value-added scores

Teacher objections and a union-led boycott do not appear to have dissuaded the Los Angeles Times from releasing teachers' test-driven scores to the general public.

On Sunday the paper published a new batch of value-added scores for some 11,500 elementary school teachers. Under value-added, statisticians use previous test scores to predict each student's future performance -- and then rate teachers on their success at meeting those goals.

But the criticism may have prompted some changes. "In the interest of greater clarity and accuracy," the paper says it has altered the formula it uses for its independent analysis of those scores.

"More information is now shown about the precision of each estimate and how a teacher ranks relative to other teachers in the district," the paper writes. "The analysis also takes into account additional variables related to a student's socioeconomic background and the composition of a teacher's class."

The paper says the "vast majority" of teachers' ratings did not change significantly using the modified formula.

But of course, that implies that a minority of teachers' scores did change significantly. And it raises an interesting question, since the value-added approach Florida legislators approved with SB 736 may not "set different expectations" for students based on their gender, race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status.

Proponents say that's okay, since students are only compared against their own performance in value-added. But even some supporters of the approach say adding such variables can help make the scores more accurate. (And of course, there are others who say value-added is simply too volatile and error-prone to be used as part of a strict formula to make high-stakes decisions.)

What do you think? Can we get value-added right here in Florida?