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Media: Annotated LA Times Value-Added Webchat

Something about the LA Times story publishing value-added ratings of teachers is deeply irksome to me and many others -- even those who aren't inclined to defend teachers or districts.  Something about the story grates on us; we can't let go. So it was fascinating to look at what LAT education reporters Jason Felch and Jason Song (pictured) said they thought about their work from a screened set of reader emails they answered last week (Chat about 'Grading the teachers') on the LAT website.

Jason felch Jason song

What I got from reading the transcript was Song and Felch's strong sense of righteous frustration (most of it directed against the district), an unwarranted sense of having been first to shed light on something that well, everyone already knew about in general terms, and a BIG disconnect between the what they thought their story was about and what many of us who read it seemed to think was the focus.  They seem confused, or perhaps want to have it both ways. Click below for my annotated comments on key moments in the transcript.

ScreenHunter_15 Aug. 24 01.30
This sounds to me like they got into the schools and classrooms with a vague initial description of what they were up to -- sounds innocuous, no? -- and then went back to the teachers and principals with the ratings afterwards telling them they could respond or get left out of the story.  Sadly that's how it's often done.  But it's not as transparent or up-front as it sounds.
ScreenHunter_16 Aug. 24 01.31
Who are the researchers who vetted the guy from RAND, and why haven't they or any of those who reviewed the report come out to defend it?  The RAND researcher has already distanced himself from the use of individual names, which he says was done after he completed his work.
ScreenHunter_11 Aug. 24 01.10
This comment above seems like it contains a deep misunderstanding of how readers read news stories, and how this one was put together.  There was no story without the individual teacher ratings, and yet Song seems to believe that teacher ratings were just a part of what was being communicated. This is a fig leaf that's much too small.
ScreenHunter_12 Aug. 24 01.11
What a strange thing to say, given that the top picture on the story from last week was a picture of a "bad" teacher (John Smith) and the opening anecdote was about him, too.  Readers are focused on the ineffective teachers because you pointed us to them, Felch.  And you pointed us to them because you knew it would be more engaging (enraging?) than focusing on the so-called effective teachers.
ScreenHunter_14 Aug. 24 01.12
A minor point but this response from Felch made me wonder whether he was a teacher or just did some teaching, and at what kind of school?  I taught at a boys prep school and might have tried to get away with this kind of vague description -- fine for a cocktail party but not so much as a journalist.
ScreenHunter_18 Aug. 24 01.48
So far at least we've only heard about a handful of the 50 teachers' classroom performance or value-added ratings.  What about the rest, and what about the selection method?  It seems likely that the reporters picked the "best" stories (ie, the extreme contrasts or unexpected outcomes) rather than any representative or typical situation.
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As a San Francisco public school parent, volunteer and advocate, I'd love to find out where Felch taught too, and which youth program he ran. Can you ask him? For that matter, what SFUSD schools did he attend, as an apparent native?

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