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Excerpt from Greg Toppo's article.
The Obama administration's push to make student test scores a bigger part of teacher evaluations may be having an unintended side effect: It's cooling officials' appetite for making the data public.
Teachers' unions have always opposed publishing individual public school teachers' class results in newspapers or online, saying the scores students produce each spring in math and reading, for instance, don't tell the whole story. Now even education reformers — and reform-minded public officials — are having second thoughts about releasing the data.
Thousands of teachers in the USA's two largest school districts are now part of searchable online databases that detail their "value-added" scores, ranking them relative to one another based on skills gains their students show in a given school year: In New York City, the education department in February released individual rankings of 18,000 teachers. In August 2010, the Los Angeles Times produced a database of ratings that has grown to include 11,500 Los Angeleselementary school teachers. It's planning later this year to publish middle-school teachers' scores as well.
Elena Silva of the Washington, D.C., think tank Education Sector said many reformers believed publicizing teacher rankings would change everything. "The world would know and we would be able to dismiss ineffective teachers and reward effective teachers and everyone would be happier — and the system would be better," she said. "And that's a wonderful vision, but in fact we aren't as far along as most would have hoped with teacher evaluations."
In the absence of reliable evaluations that fully capture how teachers affect students, publicly rating teachers "is a faulty approach," she said. "I do think people are backpedaling on that and I do think they are rightly backpedaling."
Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach For America and a self-proclaimed "strong supporter of teacher accountability and effectiveness," wrote in March in The Wall Street Journal that she was "baffled and embarrassed" by New York City's decision to release the data. The mother of students in city schools, Kopp said that when she dropped her kids off at school that week, "I had a hard time looking their teachers in the eye."
The Obama administration has long sought to make value-added scores part of individual teachers' evaluations. It required, for instance, that states seeking federal stimulus aid get rid of legal barriers that would prohibit tying the scores to teacher pay and retention. As the tests' importance has risen, so has skepticism about their usefulness and accuracy, both from researchers and teachers...