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Bruno: Most People Don't Care About Value-Added Scores

9226948365_62b4d743c0_nIn 2010, the Los Angeles Times acquired elementary school test scores for students in LAUSD. The paper hired a researcher to calculate school and teacher value-added scores using the data and then published the results.

That publication was big news, and traffic on the Times site was substantial. So what did people do with the newly-available information?

The answer, according to a recent working paper from Scott Imberman and Michael Lovenheim is: "not much".

The authors looked at housing prices around Los Angeles schools and found that, for the most part, they didn't appear to change as a result of the report.

In some respects this is surprising. Value-added calculations do appear to tell us something about long-term student outcomes and they correlate only moderately with - and therefore are not entirely redundant to - existing, state-issued school quality reports.

On the other hand, it's not that surprising at all since there are a great many things for parents and guardians to worry about as they raise their children beyond smallish changes in math and reading test scores. So many, in fact, that it wouldn't be surprising if VAM scores typically failed to rise to the level of salience for the typical homebuyer.

It's possible - though not likely - that the value-added results were insufficiently publicized to generate a measureable effect in the market. It's also possible that the ensuing controversy "muddied the water" about the significance of the ratings in peoples' minds.

 In any case, it's probably safe to say that a dose of perspective is in order for school reform discussions that focus heavily on modest improvements to math and reading test scores. Those scores are important, but there does not appear to be a silent majority eager to prioritize them, even for their own children.

And if those scores are far from the only things that matter to most people, they probably shouldn't matter all that much to us anyway. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)


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