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When Value-Added Scores Don't Make Sense ...

In a July 2011 blog post, I pointed out that the D.C. public school system was using test scores from 100 schools still under investigation for cheating to calculate value-added scores that would eventually be incorporated into teacher evaluations. So some D.C. teachers were at risk of having students enter their classes with falsely high scores, which would make it difficult for those teachers to bring students' scores up.

At the time, DCPS spokesperson Fred Lewis told me that one teacher with a value-added score who was deemed ineffective had started an appeal process.

It appears that Washington Post reporter Bill Turque may have found that teacher—or one who has gone through a similar ordeal. According to his article today, 5th grade teacher Sarah Wysocki, who earned excellent observation ratings and was lauded by peers and parents, received a low value-added score that "trumped her positives in the classroom." She was subsequently fired.

Turque reports that more than half of Wysocki's students had come from another elementary school that is still under investigation for an unusually high number of erasures on standardized tests. According to Wysocki, some of the students who'd scored advanced the year before came into her class with no reading skills.

Wysocki appealed but her firing was upheld. Jason Kamras, chief of human capital for DCPS and the creator of the IMPACT teacher-evaluation system, said such a disparity in value-added and observation scores was "quite rare." However, he said, "it doesn't necessarily suggest that anything wrong happened." He stood behind Wysock final evaluation.

It may seem surprising that more teachers haven't come forward to appeal scores—but remember that only 12 percent of teachers in DCPS teach core subjects and therefore receive value-added scores. Turque tells a compelling story, though—we'll see if it raises any more questions.

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