Should Parents Check Teacher Scores?

Tennessee has well over a decade of value-added scores for teachers, but the state has always refused to make teacher scores public—if parents discover their kid's teacher has low scores it can cause much turmoil. But with the advent of No Child Left Behind and scores being collected by states nationwide, media organizations have been forcing the release of scores by using the Freedom of Information Act. Newspapers in Los Angeles and New York have won suits forcing the release of individual test scores and it would appear to be just a matter of time before it occurs in Tennessee.

The Haslam administration is "jawboning" media organizations to leave the issue alone. At present, the school administrators get the scores and they are used for teacher evaluations and assessment and to improve teaching skills. If parents can go to a website and get scores for their child's teacher, it will cause multiple headaches for school systems and teachers.

Advocates of release at the state level have always stressed that individual scores should not be for one year—they might not be representative of a teacher's career. It could be a special case. There has been some sentiment for releasing a three- or five-year average of a teacher's student scores. In theory, giving parents this information would bring enormous pressure on education reform.

The scores record how much "gain" a student makes during the course of a school year. If students do not score higher from year to year, it supposedly means they did not receive effective teaching during the course of the year. If all or most of the students in the class fail to "gain," it may indicate a problem.