The Los Angeles Times posted report cards for about 6,000 elementary school teachers Sunday, and the teachers union fired back that releasing "deeply flawed" test scores on the internet is "reckless and destructive."
The newspaper posted cumulative test results for students taking classes from math and English teachers in grades 3-5 in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second-largest district. In an accompanying article in The Times, the paper said parents can now check some elementary teachers by name to see how effective they are in raising student performance on standardized tests.
The Times acknowledged that looking at the test scores alone "is not a complete measure of a teacher by any means, but offer one one way to see whether an instructor is helping or hindering children in grasping what the state says they should know."
The test scores compare how far classes of students either improve or fall behind test score norms for math and English. The paper acknowledged that the use of "value added analysis" is controversial among education experts, but reported that "the method increasingly has been adopted across the nation to measure the progress students make under different instructors."
"Unfair," said a statement released by the United Teachers of Los Angeles Sunday. "It is the height of journalistic irresponsibility to make public these deeply flawed judgments about a teachers effectiveness," it said.
"The database will cause chaos at school sites, as parents scramble to get their children into classes taught by teachers labeled as 'effective' by a newspaper -- not by education professionals," UTLA said, emphasizing the word "newspaper" in italics. The union said the result is a public, incomplete and inaccurate picture of a teacher's effectiveness.
The Times made national headlines when it announced a week ago that it would publish the aggregate test results, which were gathered over a seven-year period by LAUSD. The newspaper said the mammoth school district had been unwilling to use the test scores to evaluate teachers, or work with teachers showing weak track records so far as standardized tests would indicate.
The president of the American Federation of Teachers met with Times editors and urged them not to publish the database linked to individual teachers' names. Teachers "look at this as a sledgehammer, and they're scared about it," Randi Weingarten told the newspaper.
"They're schoolteachers, they're private individuals," Weingarten told The Times. "They're not public figures. And they just woke up one day and 6,000 names were going to be in the newspaper."
UTLA President A.J. Duffy said the teachers' test scores should be made available to parents, but not posted on the Internet by a newspaper. The union also posted academic studies on its website, that indicate wild swings from year to year in any one teacher's score.
"Other researchers have indicated that the instability of such measures may be as high as 35 percent," the union said in its statement.
The Times allowed schoolteachers to post their reaction to the pending publication last week, and several dozen took the opportunity to either endorse or blast the move on the paper's website.