LAT stands by criticized story on teacher rankings study

Last week's very pointed academic criticism of the Los Angeles Times' work on teachers rankings has finally gotten a response from the paper. In a post today on the Times' website, Readers' Representative Deirdre Edgar explains how the LAT's coverage of a study by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder — highly critical of the paper — was reported in the Times as "confirming" the controversial findings the paper made using "value-added" data.

The policy center issued a news release taking issue with the article, saying its researchers believed The Times’ teacher-effectiveness ratings were based on “unreliable and invalid research.” Therefore, the release continued, the study “confirms very few of The Times’ conclusions.”

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On what basis did the article say that the Colorado study “confirms the broad conclusions” of The Times’ earlier work?

“The huge public-policy question that folks have been arguing about since we first published our ratings is whether there is such a thing as a ‘teacher effect’ that can be measured statistically –- whether teachers have a significant impact on what their students learn or whether student achievement is all about demographics, differences among schools, family background and other factors outside of teachers’ control,” said Assistant Managing Editor David Lauter, who oversees the California reporters and editors.

“The Colorado study comes down on our side of that debate. Their study said the teacher impact that they found was actually ‘slightly larger’ than the effect found by Dick Buddin, the economist who did the underlying work for The Times."

The post also points out that the Colorado center is partly funded by teachers unions, and says the Times intends to publish updates to its teachers rankings "in the next few weeks."


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