The Value of the Report Card on Teacher Training

Every year, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission issues a Report Card on the state’s teacher training program. To evaluate educator effectiveness, THEC uses the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System.

Which effectively renders the Report Card of little value.

Not included in the report is a teacher’s overall effectiveness score on the TEAM model. That would include both observed scores and value-added data, plus other achievement measures. That would be a more robust score to report, but it’s not included.

I’ve written before on the very limited value of value-added data.

Here are some highlights of why we learn almost nothing from the THEC report in terms of whether or not a teacher education program is actually doing a good job:

Here’s the finding that gets all the attention: A top 5 percent teacher (according to value-added modeling or VAM) can help a classroom of students (28) earn $250,000 more collectively over their lifetime.

Now, a quarter of a million sounds like a lot of money.

But, in their sample, a classroom was 28 students. So, that equates to $8928.57 per child over their lifetime. That’s right, NOT $8928.57 MORE per year, MORE over their whole life.

For more math fun, that’s $297.61 more per year over a thirty year career with a VAM-designated “great” teacher vs. with just an average teacher.

Yep, get your kid into a high value-added teacher’s classroom and they could be living in style, making a whole $300 more per year than their friends who had the misfortune of being in an average teacher’s room.

If we go all the way down to what VAM designates as “ineffective” teaching, you’d likely see that number double, or maybe go a little higher. So, let’s say it doubles plus some. Now, your kid has a low VAM teacher and the neighbor’s kid has a high VAM teacher. What’s that do to his or her life?

Well, it looks like this: The neighbor kid gets a starting job offer of $41,000 and your kid gets a starting offer of $40,000.

So, THEC uses a marginal indicator of educator effectiveness to make a significant determination about whether or not educator training programs are effective. At the very least, such a determination should also include observed scores of these teachers over time or the entire TEAM score.

Until then, the annual Report Card on teacher training will add little value to the education policy discussion in Tennessee.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

3 thoughts on “The Value of the Report Card on Teacher Training

  1. In a weird way, I think that reducing it down to each individual kid misses the point. $300 per kid per year isn’t that much, but an extra $250,000 over a lifetime for that classroom does have an economic impact. Multiply that by a few million teachers, and soon you’re talking about a sizeable economic impact at the macro level on overall earnings. Maybe it doesn’t matter that much for the individual kid on a yearly basis, but it looks more impressive on the societal leve.

  2. I see what you are saying, Jon, but I also think it looks like Chetty is reaching in order to add impact to his study. It’s about each individual kid. What impact does teaching, parenting, schools, community have on that kid. VAM doesn’t tell us much about that. It doesn’t differentiate at a significant level. I think it might provide useful data for teachers to use to evaluate individual students and develop strategies, but as a differentiator among teachers, I think its value is limited.

    • Won’t argue there, just saying that the overall impact is something worth considering and shouldn’t simply be dismissed as it does have some real significance for future economic outcomes.

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