Casting Doubt on My Pro-Testing Bias
The scholarly Rothstein family, father Richard and son Jesse, are taking turns removing the intellectual underpinnings of people like me who want to judge schools based on standardized tests. Richard, of the Economic Policy Institute, recently published a fine book--“Grading Education”-- investigating viable alternatives to assessment through testing, such as the English system of visiting inspectors. Now Jesse, just moved from Princeton to UC Berkeley, has published a paper in the Quarterly Journal showing that value-added testing measures---a favorite of mine---may not be so good at identifying the most effective teachers after all.
I learned about the younger Rothstein’s study in the latest Education Week (bias alert: I am on their board). Debra Viadero, the nation’s best reporter on education research, says Rothstein found that differences between teachers, when measured by how much their students’ scores improve, may be heavily influenced by the way those students were assigned to their classes. Viadero discusses two other studies, however, that indicate value-added measures may work if several years of data are used and if exposed to research using random assignment procedures. She also reveals that Mathematica Policy Research Inc., a giant in the education research field, is gearing up a massive study of value-added measures, but I will probably be completely senile (the study has about four years to go) before the results come out.
Washington Post Editors
| July 21, 2009; 6:13 PM ET
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