Value-Added Teacher Evaluation Makes Sense: Just Look at Baseball

Thanksgiving is football season, so I thought it would be a perfect time to highlight the intersection of education reform and… baseball. Yes, that’s right. Writing on the Education Next blog, Harvard professor Paul Peterson brought my attention to a great new consensus report from the Brookings Institution on the role of value-added in teacher evaluations.

Value-added? You know what I’m talking about. Measuring how much students gain and improve academically in a teacher’s classroom. Specifically, the Brookings report takes on four major areas:

  1. Value-added can be valuable without supporting every possible use of the information — including releasing it to the public
  2. Since the interests of students and teachers don’t align, their consequences from value-added should be different, too
  3. Value-added measurements turn out to be as reliable as high-stakes performance measures used in non-education fields
  4. Teacher evaluation systems that use value-added prove to be more reliable than systems that do not use it

Good stuff from an organization and group of academics that hardly can be classified as right-wing, reactionary or anti-union. This is just common sense analysis rooted in real research. And if Colorado puts into practice the principles of Senate Bill 191 — including tying 50 percent of teacher and principal evaluations to measured growth in student learning — our state will be ahead of the game!

My favorite point comes from number three about the comparison to non-education fields. As Professor Peterson pointed out about the authors of the Brookings report:

The group admits that test-based measures of teacher effectiveness correlate, on average, for any given teacher, from one year to the next, at no better than 0.35, well below the 0.90 correlation one would in principle like to have. But the report then points out that the “between-season correlation in batting averages for professional baseball players is 0.36.” In the best line of the report, they say: “Ask any manager of a baseball team whether he considers a player’s batting average from the previous year in decisions about the present year.” If general managers, in making salary decisions, look beyond years of experience, so should school districts.

You don’t think teachers who demonstrate the greatest value-added with their students should be paid more than those who do an average job? Do you not think Carlos Gonzales and Troy Tulowitzki should earn more than, say, Chris Iannetta? I want the Rockies to be a playoff contender, and I want the best teachers helping the most kids. That’s what I mean: the intersection of baseball and education reform.