Expert forum to explore implications of grading teachers

Joining a national debate about the Los Angeles Times‘ recent publication of its own evaluations of 6,000 elementary school teachers, UC Berkeley is hosting a Sept. 27 experts forum, “Grading the Teachers: Measures, Media and Policies.”

classroom with children and teacher

The Times called publicizing the scores of how well teachers improved student performance on standardized tests “an important service” and contended that parents and the public have a right to such information. The Obama Administration has prioritized compensating teachers at least partly for their performance, but much of the controversy concerns the newspaper’s “value-added” evaluation method of linking teachers to student test scores and whether the paper did enough to make readers aware of the method’s limitations.

Judith Warren Little, dean of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education, called the report, part of The Times“Grading the Teachers” series, “a wake-up call to all of us in research, journalism, and education circles to grapple with the policy and journalistic implications of teacher accountability.”

The education school is co-sponsoring the forum, along with UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, the Berkeley School of Law and the Goldman School of Public Policy, as well as Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), an independent, non-partisan research center based at UC Berkeley, Stanford University and the University of Southern California. The panel will be free and open to the public.

The panel includes Jason Felch, the lead reporter and spokesman on the Los Angeles Times series and a graduate of the UC Berkeley journalism school.

The 1:30-4:30 p.m. panel discussion in Sutardja Dai Hall’s Banatao Auditorium will consider the methods and implications of The Times story, what promising teacher evaluations are on the horizon, and how and if they may benefit teachers and students.

“It’s with a sense of urgency and responsibility that we are bringing together the top experts and primary representatives from The Times and elsewhere,” Little said. “We want to help journalists, teachers and lay audiences navigate these complex issues by providing a thorough and timely public discussion of them.”

The forum will be moderated by Louis Freedberg, a senior reporter covering issues for California Watch, a project of the Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting.

In addition to Felch, panelists will include:

• Mark Wilson, a UC Berkeley professor of education, a measurement specialist and a member of the Testing and Assessment panel of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, which issued a report on value-added teacher measurements last year

• California Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge), a former public school teacher and administrator, and a longtime advocate for California’s public education system with an interest in policy relating to teacher quality

• Richard Rothstein, the former national education columnist of The New York Times and now a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C., non-profit think tank that recently issued a report critical of value-added gauges of teacher effectiveness

• Eric Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University and a leader in the development of economic analysis of educational issues, including the impacts of teacher quality and high stakes accountability

• David Plank, the executive director of PACE

• Susan Rasky, a senior lecturer at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and a former congressional correspondent for The New York Times

• Kyla Johnson-Trammell, an award-winning principal of Oakland’s Sequoia Elementary School and a graduate of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education Principal Leadership Institute.

Complete participant profiles, media and research reports are available from the “Grading the Teachers” event Web site.