For people who know education, this is shocking, but there are people who probably are not convinced by my explanation that these should be more correlated if the formulas truly measured learning. Some might think that this really just means that just like there are people who are better at math than language arts and vice versa, there are teachers who are better at teaching math than language arts and vice versa.
So I ran a different experiment for those who still aren’t convinced. There is another scenario where a teacher got multiple ratings in the same year. This is when a middle school math or language arts teacher teaches multiple grades in the same year. So, for example, there is a teacher at M.S. 35 who taught 6th grade and 7th grade math. As these scores are supposed to measure how well you advanced the kids that were in your class, regardless of their starting point, one would certainly expect a teacher to get approximately the same score on how well they taught 6th grade math and 7th grade math. Maybe you could argue that some teachers are much better at teaching language arts than math, but it would take a lot to try to convince someone that some teachers are much better at teaching 6th grade math than 7th grade math. But when I went to the data report for M.S. 35 I found that while this teacher scored 97 out of 100 for 6th grade math, she only scored a 6 out of 100 for 7th grade math.
Again, I investigated to see if this was just a bizarre outlier. It wasn’t. In fact, the spreads were even worse for teachers teaching one subject to multiple grades than they were for teaching different subjects to the same grade.
Rated each year as “exceeding expectations,” she showed positive value-added scores in most subjects every year, except for the year she taught 4th grade, when English-language learners, or ELLs, are mainstreamed in Houston. The pattern of lower scores in classes with large numbers of ELLs is well known. As another teacher said: “I’m scared I might lose my job if I teach in an [ELL] transition-grade level, because my scores are going to drop, and I’m scared I’m going to get fired.” When teachers avoid these classes, high-need students are increasingly taught by less effective novices.
Correlation between 2007-08 and 2008-09 value added
Grade 4 0.48 0.24
Grade 5 0.45 0.33
Grade 6 0.62 0.24
Grade 7 0.50 0.20
Grade 8 0.59 0.24
Correlation between math and ELA value added, same teachers
2008-09 value added Multi-year value added
Grade 4 0.52 0.55
Grade 5 0.39 0.49
Grade 6 0.41 0.48
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