LAT spins story that strongly criticizes its teacher series

The headlines in the Washington Post (news story and opinion piece) and at KPCC tell the story: the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder, strongly denounced last year's Los Angeles Times project to analyze teacher effectiveness using the controversial "value added" test.

Researchers fault L.A. Times methods in analysis of Calif. teachers

New study: How L.A. Times teachers data is flawed

Researchers criticize LA Times teacher rankings

On the Times' website, the paper opted to spin the story another way. The headline read Separate study confirms many Los Angeles Times findings on teacher effectiveness. The story begins: "A study to be released Monday confirms the broad conclusions of a Times' analysis of teacher effectiveness in the Los Angeles Unified School District while raising concerns about the precision of the ratings."

Now here's what the Colorado researchers actually said — it's a strongly worded denunciation and says the Times owes its readers an apology.

Research Study Shows L. A. Times Teacher Ratings Are Neither Reliable Nor Valid

This study makes it clear that the L.A. Times and its research team have done a disservice to the teachers, students, and parents of Los Angeles. The Times owes its community a better accounting for its decision to publish the names and rankings of individual teachers when it knew or should have known that those rankings were based on a questionable analysis. In any case, the Times now owes its community an acknowledgment of the tremendous weakness of the results reported and an apology for the damage its reporting has done.

Yowza. Celeste Fremon at Witness LA has more on the unfolding controversy. Times editors say they stand behind their stories on teacher effectiveness.

The Boulder center seems mighty upset at the Times' spin of the story. The center has posted a fact sheet detailing what it says are misrepresentations by the Times. A spokesman emails: "The Times story...appears to be an effort to frame the story so as to avoid acknowledging the problems with its reporting. As the Times reporter spoke to our researcher at length prior to publication of the article the misrepresentations appear to have been done with intent. There are issues of both social science and of journalistic ethics here. It appears that the LA Times has done great harm to individual teachers, the students they teach, and the citizens of Los Angeles."

Previously on LA Observed:
Former Times city editor Bill Boyarsky never liked the LAT's use of value added.

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