LAUSD Releases Its Own “Value-Added” Rankings of Schools

Superintendent John Deasy takes over the second-largest school system in America, LAUSD, just as the district releases its own calculations of student performance based on standardized test scores. From the LA Times

The Los Angeles Unified School District’s new school performance measure is likely to surprise many parents, who have traditionally compared schools — and at times purchased homes — based on the state’s Academic Performance Index, which rates schools on a 1,000-point index based mainly on their students’ abilities on standardized tests.

The value-added approach [instead] focuses on how much progress students make year to year rather than measuring solely their achievement level, like the API, which is heavily influenced by factors outside a school’s control, including poverty and parental involvement. Value-added analysis compares a student with his or her own prior performance, largely controlling for outside-of-school influences.

The district’s ratings, dubbed “Academic Growth Over Time,” can send parents a very different signal about a school’s performance. Take, for example, 3rd Street Elementary School in the Hancock Park neighborhood of L.A., which has an API score of 938, putting it among the highest-scoring schools in the district. Under the new growth measure, 3rd Street is one of the lowest-performing elementary schools in the district.

cynthia liuWhat’s troubling is that rhetoric surrounding use of student standardized test scores–even if student performance year-over-year is compared to eliminate external influences–appears to include other measures of teacher performance, yet those other measures have never been identified. What are they? Teacher peer evaluation? Portfolio review of instructional materials? The focus has been almost exclusively on standardized test scores and “value-added” as it applies to teacher performance.

Cynthia Liu

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