The wrong debate

Interesting piece in 538 about the academic research battle over whether “value-added” metrics are a good way to evaluate teachers  (i.e., looking at the test score growth of a teacher’s students, while accounting for student demographics, etc.).  The article pretty much comes out on the VA metrics are getting the best of the debate right now:

And there is a broader point in favor of CFR’s work: Their numbers are being replicated in many different settings. Even in Rothstein’s paper critiquing their method, he replicated their results using data from North Carolina public schools. “I’m not aware of another area of social science where there has been so much replication, in such a short time, and they’ve all found the same result,” Kane said. On the consistency of replicability, Staiger said “it’s just astounding, actually.” Even Rothstein grants this: “Replication is an extremely important part of the research process … I think this is a great success, that these very complex analyses are producing similar results.”

“It’s almost like we’re doing real, hard science here,” Friedman said. Well, almost. But by the standards of empirical social science — with all its limitations in experimental design, imperfect data, and the hard-to-capture behavior of individuals — it’s still impressive. The honest, respectful back-and-forth of dueling empirical approaches doesn’t mean the contentious nature of teacher evaluation will go away. But for what has been called the “credibility revolution” in empirical economics, it’s a win.

As long as we’re going to continue using these– and clearly they are not going away any time soon– it’s comforting to know that they are more or less (though, I still suspect not nearly as effective as their advocates believe) accurate in ranking teachers.

But, that said, this whole argument is predicated on the idea that “rank and stack” is the best way (or even a good way) to improve education in America.  It’s not.  What should we be doing instead?  I’ve already got that covered.


Photo of the day

Love, love this In Focus gallery of images from above Earth.  So many awesome photos.  Here’s one of my many favorites:

The Arc de Triomphe, at the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle, also known as the Place de l’Etoile, amid rooftops of residential buildings in Paris, France, on July 14, 2015.

Philippe Wojazer / Reuters
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