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Assessing Value-Added Metrics and On-line Learning

January 6, 2012

Only two links today and there won’t be any links for the next three days… though I will be publishing three essays I wrote over the past few years, two of which were published as op ed pieces in the Valley News.

The value added research debate continues in today’s New York Times. Three economists, two of whom were reportedly skeptics of value-added assessments, concluded that “good teachers” are markedly superior to “average teachers” and an equal gap existed between “average teachers” and “poor teachers”. The categorization of the teachers was primarily based on standardized achievement tests. The researchers evidently tracked student performance over time, which means the practical application of this may be limited since administrators are required to make tenure decisions within a three year window in most states.

An adverse assessment of on line learning also grabbed headlines in today’s NYTimes. As is often the case  duality prevails in news coverage: “online learning” is pitted against “brick and mortar” learning. The article also pits “for profit” on line schools against “non-profit” schools. Here are the findings in a nutshell: brick and mortar is better than schools that are exclusively online and not-for-profit-online schools outperform for-profit-online schools. Neither of these findings is surprising… and… as is almost always the case… neither finding is completely conclusive.

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