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Analysis shows differences in teacher effectiveness in LAUSD



In Los Angeles Unified, novice teachers tend to be assigned students who are academically farther behind those assigned to experienced teachers. Before they depart, usually after only two years, Teach for America teachers have a bigger impact on students than that of other new teachers. And National Board Certified teachers significantly outperform other teachers in LAUSD.

These are among the findings of an extensive six-year study of about a third of teachers in LAUSD by the Strategic Data Project, which is affiliated with the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University. Researchers have conducted similar analyses of teacher recruitment, development and retention patterns in three dozen school districts and charter organizations nationwide, under work funded by the Gates Foundation. LAUSD’s report, which was released Wednesday, could become a key resource as the district and United Teachers Los Angeles negotiate changes to teacher evaluations and other parts of the teachers’ contract.

The finding with perhaps the biggest implication quantified significant disparities in effectiveness among the district’s elementary and middle school teachers, as measured by students’ standardized test scores. Researchers found that the difference between a math teacher in the 75th percentile – those whose students performed better than three quarters of other students – and a teacher in the 25th percentile was the roughly equivalent benefit to a student of having eight additional months of instruction in a calendar year (technically one quarter of a standard deviation). The differences were greater than the average of the other districts studied nationwide, although similar to the differences found in San Diego Unified. The study covered only 30 percent of teachers in the district – those whose students take the California Standards Tests, primarily elementary and middle school teachers. The differences between teachers whose students take the English language arts tests were less pronounced than with math.

Researchers used a method similar to the district’s controversial Academic Growth over Time, which factors in students’ past test scores and socioeconomic background to determine their teachers’ impact. LAUSD has used the method to rate individual teachers. Because ratings fluctuate significantly year to year, the method has been criticized as a tool for evaluating teachers. But Jon Fullerton, director of the Center for Education Policy Research, said that the method is useful for aggregate trends using group averages of teacher effectiveness – comparing novice and experienced teachers, or measuring the effectiveness of teachers with advanced academic degrees.

Drew Furedi, LAUSD’s executive director for talent management, acknowledged in an interview that test scores are just one of the multiple measures the district will use to measure effectiveness. But the data in the report, he said, most immediately “will help our understanding of placement strategies and distribution challenges in the system.”

Among other findings:

Only about one out of six Teach for America teachers return to teach in Los Angeles Unified after three years. Source: SDP Human Capital Diagnostic in the Los Angeles Unified. (Click to enlarge.)

Only about one out of six Teach for America teachers return to teach in Los Angeles Unified after three years. Source: SDP Human Capital Diagnostic in the Los Angeles Unified. (Click to enlarge.)

  • New teachers hired through Teach for America and the district’s own Career Ladder program, encouraging paraprofessionals to become teachers, have a positive effect ­– equal to two months and one month extra of instruction respectively in math – compared with other novice teachers. However, about two-thirds of Teach for America teachers, recruited from top colleges nationwide, leave the district after the program’s required two years, while more Career Ladder teachers continue on – a factor LAUSD will want to consider. Over the past several year, about one out of eight teachers were hired through the two programs. Furedi said that the district may do a similar analysis of other teacher preparation programs.
  • Novice and early career elementary teachers disproportionately are assigned struggling students – those entering the year an average of six months behind their peers. Novices not only are disproportionately assigned to schools with lower achieving students, but also are given more struggling students than experienced teachers within schools. Since experienced teachers on average are more effective, “this is a call to action, for better strategic placement of teachers for student outcomes,” Fullerton said Wednesday in a webinar announcing the results.
  • Math teachers in LAUSD improve substantially over time in the classroom – roughly equal to an additional three months of instruction by their fifth year. Improvement in English language arts is less dramatic.
Of the teachers who were laid off, 45 percent were in the top two quartiles of effective teachers in Los Angeles Unified. Source: SDP Human Capital Diagnostic in the Los Angeles Unified. (Click to enlarge.)

Of the teachers who were laid off, 45 percent were in the top two quartiles of effective teachers in Los Angeles Unified. Source: SDP Human Capital Diagnostic in the Los Angeles Unified. (Click to enlarge.)

  • Even though they are automatically paid more under the current salary system, LAUSD teachers with advanced academic degrees are no more effective than those who lack them. However, teachers with a National Board Certification outperform other teachers, by roughly two months of additional math instruction and one month of additional ELA instruction over a year. This could reflect the benefits of the program or the quality of the teachers who pursue certification, the study said. Only about 4 percent of LAUSD teachers have board certification, and most of those teach in high-performing schools, indicating the district may want to encourage placement in schools with greater needs.
  • In a finding with implications for a state law and district policy requiring layoffs by seniority, the study found that teachers who were laid off in LAUSD as a result of budget cuts were about as effective as teachers who kept their jobs. Since most of the laid-off teachers were less experienced, a slightly higher proportion – 55 percent – were in the bottom two quartiles of performance. However, that also meant that 45 percent of those let go were in the top two quartiles of performers, who, under a more rigorous evaluation system deemphasizing seniority, might retain their jobs.

Filed under: Evaluations, Pay and Tenure, Preparation, State Education Policy, Teaching, Testing and Accountability

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5 Responses to “Analysis shows differences in teacher effectiveness in LAUSD”

  1. Gary Ravani said

    on November 15, 2012 at 10:31 am

    So…the Center for Educational Policy Research who lists Teach for America as one of its “partners” and the Gates Foundation as one of its “funders” completes a “study” that finds TFA teachers as “effective” and supports Gates’ assertions about using test data in teachers’ evaluations. Oh, and coincidentally, the “study” undercuts seniority rights.

    Do I have that right?

    Sounds like real “science” to me. Put this “study” on the shelf right next to the ones denying global climate change and the “studies” on evolution that have guys riding dinosaurs like ponies.

  2. navigio said

    on November 15, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    There was one sentence which really troubled me from this ‘study’:

    “Figure 16 illustrates that, as expected, layoffs driven primarily by seniority did not have a strong relationship to teacher effects. ”

    Why ‘as expected’?

    I have about 35,000 more comments on the document, but I’ll spare people.. for the moment..

  3. Demian said

    on November 20, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    To clarify the summary above about TFA recruits usually leaving after 2 years, refer to the quote, “While 87% of Career Ladder teachers stay in the classroom for their third year of teaching, only 36% of TFA teachers and 68% of all other newly hired LAUSD teachers stay.” This study also finds that all novice teachers, TFA included, do not raise achievement (test scores) as much as more experienced teachers, but novice teachers are more likely to teach students that are behind. The key would seem to be to reduce turnover of teachers for such students – which is exactly what TFA exacerbates.

    Regarding use of seniority in layoffs, this study really confirms what we already know – that seniority based layoffs are not perfect, but the study also notes that use test scores is not perfect. The speculation that somehow combining them (possibly along with “multiple measures”) will result in systematic improvement is speculation. As other researchers have noted (refer to http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/thinking-through-cost-benefit-analysis-and-layoff-policies/), there is little evidence for this and very real potential for causing problems.

  4. Ronarae (Rae) Adams said

    on December 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    It’s a shame that it took a six year study to reaffirm previous research results of the significance of the impact National Board Certified Teachers have on instruction and student learning outcomes.
    Isn’t it a “no-brainer” that we have missed opportunities in higher education to partner with schools to prepare teacher candidates with NATIONAL standards of performance, differentiated by content and developmental learning ranges(NBPTS) who should be required to provide EVIDENCE of their ability to produce gains in student learning, and therefore, to be recognized as accomplished educators? Wouldn’t it be more equitable and ethical to prepare ALL teachers with “tools and processes” that lead to reaching a higher, more meaningful “bar” of expectations? I want my children (and ALL children) to experience a highly effective teacher, EVERYDAY of every year– beginning on day one their first day on the job. A BEGINNING teacher who declares that they want to be measured against the National Board Standards and through the ASSESSMENT (after year 3), indicates the promise of a novice who will intentionally, vs. haphazardly, DEVELOP the dispositions, knowledge and skills to teach this new generation of learners in a coherent, coordinated system that supports earning National Board Certification. The assessment is is a CHOICE, and unfortunately, it is the exception and not the rule in the teaching profession, or that each pre-service teacher experiences a preparation journey that parallels a clear continuum that “begins with the end in mind”: Every child deserves to experience teachers who can demonstrate evidence of meeting national standards of performance–the NBPTS assessment is a bonus level; the NBPTS standards should be introduced and included in every preparation program. More NBCTs should be considered to teach and coach these newbies to ensure equity and access is broad and that it makes a “learning difference” that can be documented and replicated.

  5. Roque Burio, Jr. said

    on January 7, 2013 at 9:45 am

    From Roque Burio Jr., the lemon who can dance and can sing. Here is my song to all superintendents especially Mr. Deasy on application of test scores: The test scores if used to evaluate teachers can lead to discovering the problems in teaching and learning students, by testing the statistical significance of the progressions and regressions of the students’ scores before and after being assigned to particular teachers.
    If there is no change in the progression or regression of students’ scores then the problems are with the students. However if there is a significant regression of test scores of students, then the problems are with the teachers being perhaps ineffective. And on the contrary if there is a significant progression of the test scores of students; then hooray, the teachers are indeed very effective and deserve some bonus for their good work. He, he, he, he—it is just as simple as that. Now your problem is how to do the statistics for large population data. He, he, he. Correlating the students’ test scores with teachers’ evaluation will also remove all biases in teachers’ evaluations especially of the vindictive principals–and of course, the statistics could be done silently at the management levels of the School Districts for a while. More he, he, he. Okay? Good decision Judge Chalfant.

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