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The Deseret News welcomes further comments on the topic of math education, but we will also be moving on to our next blog issue: value-added assessment. That’s a formal name for a very controversial idea. Almost everyone agrees that of the educational variables we can somehow control (thereby excluding family support, economic security, etc.), teacher quality tops the list.
A good teacher can raise a child more than a grade level in a year; a poor teacher can leave a deficit that a child may never overcome. A number of mathematicians and economists have been pushing for value-added measurements, that is, measurements of how far an individual child advanced in a particular classroom.
The advantage of this approach is that it measures how much an individual teacher is accomplishing without penalizing teachers whose students for whatever reason already lag behind their peers.
But there are problems. With value-added assessment, high-stakes tests become higher stakes tests. Mastery of some subjects, such as math, is much easier to assess than mastery of other subjects. Technical issues abound.
The controversy over value-added assessment came to a head this summer when the Los Angeles Times — after making the information available to teachers and allowing them to respond — published the test scores of teachers in the LA school district.
A judge in New York City has recently ruled that the city schools must do the same. All over the country school districts are adopting evaluation, retention and bonus systems based on these value-added scores.
I will post my own thoughts about this, but I invite you to send in your own contributions to MMcConnell@desnews.com.

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