Method Ties Teacher Ratings to Students' Scores

A new approach to the perennial puzzle of improving American schools faces its biggest trial yet this school year. The idea is to grade teachers similar to how they grade students and to make it public so parents can decide if their kids are getting the education they deserve.

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Los Angeles parents shopping for supplies may soon be shopping for teachers using data that claims to tell just how good a teacher may be, CBS News Correspondent Barry Petersen reports.

"That sounds like a great idea for some parents who want to know more about their teachers' background," parent Ana Barcelo said.

It's called value-added analysis, rating teachers based on students' test scores.

For instance, if a student ranked in the 60th percentile tests higher at the end of the year, the teacher gets a better rating. If the student falls, the teacher's rating falls.

"The main job of a teacher is to help students grow, and if we don't know if the students are growing, we can't be sure whether the teacher is effective," said Timothy Daly, president of The New Teacher Project.

At least 23 states have tools in place to implement the value-added approach, and it was used in the firings of 241 teachers in Washington, D.C., according to the Data Quality Campaign.

"I've never seen the level of fear in the classroom among teachers as I saw this year," said George Parker of the Washington Teachers' Union.

Now it's coming to L.A. after the Los Angeles Times used it to assess 6,000 elementary school teachers in math and English.

In an unprecedented move, the Times said it will release the names and analysis of each teacher for every parent to see.

"So that teachers and the school district can see the value of this information, something that they've avoided doing for years," Times reporter Jason Felch said.

The Times' analysis showed some surprising results:

• that there can be dramatic differences in how well teachers improve test scores even in the same schools
• that a teacher's education level is not a measure of how good that teacher is.
• that good teachers succeed just as well in poor neighborhoods as in rich ones.

But the United Teachers of Los Angeles, the local union, calls it too simple of an answer to public education woes.

"It's because teachers don't have textbooks," said union vice president Josh Pechthalt. "We have 40 children in a classroom. Art and music programs have been eliminated."

Still, some teachers like Rudolfo Padilla, working in a system that lays off based mainly on seniority, thinks assessing performance is fine.

"You need to make sure the teachers you do keep are the best," Padilla said.

Proponents say teachers should face public scrutiny. Others argue that there is no test for the best measure of a teacher, one who can inspire a child to learn.