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Editorial Introduction

Few research findings in education are this certain:  classroom teachers have the greatest in-school effect on student learning. But measuring—in order to ensure—the quality of a teacher’s practice inside that classroom remains a topic of much controversy.  Although there is consensus that teaching is complex and hence difficult to capture, public impatience with failing schools and our current political climate are fueling a narrow reform idea:  measure teachers’ output based on the value they add to students’ standardized test scores and use this measurement to make big changes in the way teachers are hired, promoted, paid, and dismissed.  In our own city, the local newspaper even publishes these measurements, further stoking the perception that value-added scores are key to transforming our failing schools.  Instead of focusing on school funding or other reform levers, public debate is centered on how best to measure teacher quality.  We take this as an opportunity to inform a common sense response to the value-added debate:  Yes, teaching is complex and we should measure what we value (which is more than just test score growth) but how do we do it?  What are other ways to capture teacher quality?  How can we understand and use different measures of good teaching to improve schools?   

In this issue of the Center XChange, we assemble a diverse set of perspectives to answer these questions.  We take the stand that there should be multiple measures of good teaching—including evidence about student learning—and that these measures should form the basis for both evaluating teachers and, most importantly, guiding teachers’ professional growth. Center X believes that practicing teachers—along with other local school stakeholders—should be at the core of this debate and that their development of new and use of existing multiple measures will determine the success of this latest reform movement.

With this issue, we introduce a new feature, “The Briefing Room,” to provide readers with an overview of our theme, including the first in a series of Center X Research, Practice and Policy Briefs.  These briefs are co-authored by a UCLA researcher and Los Angeles practicing educator in order to bring together research findings, tools, and practical experience to inform educational policy and change.  The Briefing Room also provides a range of expert opinions on the issue of measuring good teaching.  We include UCLA faculty who have had their opinions published in national news media as well as UCLA alumni working in Los Angeles schools.  They offer a range of responses to a common prompt:  If someone came into your classroom, what would you offer as evidence of the quality of your professional practice and why?  These perspectives are shared in a series of 30 second YouTube clips as well as a set of short essays

Turning to the scholarly research on this topic, our XPress feature includes four articles and reports by UCLA authors and their colleagues.  In the first article, Jeannie Oakes and colleagues offer a framework for defining urban teacher competency that includes but goes beyond content and pedagogical knowledge and skills.  They write that urban teachers should also be assessed on their competency “as public intellectuals who work for educational equity and access through multiple forms of democratic participation.”  Turning to the technical aspects of the value-added debate, Eva Baker and group of distinguished colleagues articulate a range of problems associated with using student test scores to evaluate teachers.  They conclude, “although standardized test scores of students are one piece of information for school leaders to use to make judgments about teacher effectiveness, such scores should be only a part of an overall comprehensive evaluation.”  The last two papers report on research from UCLA’s National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing (CRESST), to develop rigorous artifact-based measures of teaching quality.  The first focuses on a portfolio called the “Scoop Notebook” used to measure teaching quality in science classrooms.  The second describes research on the Instructional Quality Assessment, which is based on the assignments teachers give students and the quality of student work produced in that context.  Both artifact measures hold much promise for new multiple measures assessment systems. 

In our Teacher Workroom feature, we overview a new effort that uses multiple measures of good teaching to study the effectiveness of UCLA IMPACT, an urban teacher residency program. One of these measures is the Performance Assessment for California Teachers (PACT); we provide links to the PACT instruments and rubrics as well as an example from a UCLA student’s PACT.  We also share observation rubrics and a presentation on their development and use.

We hope you find the issue both insightful and useful in transforming public schools to create a more just, equitable and humane society.  We welcome your feedback on the issue as well as your own efforts to advance this important debate.


Karen Hunter Quartz              

Mollie Appelgate


Spring 2011


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