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Bruno: Inconsistent Messaging On Parents & Teacher Ratings

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Andrew Rotherham has a column up at TIME.com arguing for not just "school choice" but for the right of parents to choose particular teachers for their students and deploring the fact that "the whole system is stacked against empowering families in this way."

There are lots of potential problems with this suggestion.  It's not clear whether we could make such a system fair to teachers or equitable for students.  Nor would I envy the administrators and counselors tasked with satisfying the individual scheduling requests of potentially hundreds of parents and guardians...

This is a guest commentary from middle school science teacher Paul Bruno, who tweets at @MrPABruno. Click below to read the rest.

Even putting aside these concerns about equity and logistics, however, it's a little hard to reconcile Rotherham's advocacy of this sort of "teacher choice" with his (pdf) previous endorsements of value-added measurements of teacher effectiveness. These VA measures usually rely in large part on assumptions about random assignment (pdf) of students into teachers' classrooms, an assumption that would be significantly undermined if parents started taking Rotherham's advice in large numbers.

To some extent this apparent contradiction just highlights the difficulties inherent to using teacher effectiveness data sensibly and without simultaneously corrupting them.  Still, I'd like to see education reformers trying to think those problems through more openly and explicitly.  If reformers are going to push for accountability systems like VAM while at the same time undermining the validity of those systems they shouldn't be surprised when teachers feel unfairly attacked. (To Rotherham's credit, he's often taken a thoughtful, cautious approach in the past, for example with the 2010 LA Times value-added data dump.)

So why was empowering families with "teacher choice" a bad idea for LAUSD in 2010 if it's such a good idea now, and how does a major role for parent selection of teachers fit in to the broader reform agenda for more objective evaluations of teachers? On this front, at least, there's no clear or consistent message coming through.- PB (@MrPABruno)

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