The Little-Known Statistician Who Taught Us to Measure Teachers

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Media Outlet: New York Times

Kevin Carey wrote for the New York Times about a Tennessee statistician who sought to measure the “value-added” contributions of individual teachers.

Students enroll in a teacher’s classroom. Nine months later, they take a test. How much did the first event, the teaching, cause the second event, the test scores? Students have vastly different abilities and backgrounds. A great teacher could see lower test scores after being assigned unusually hard-to-teach kids. A mediocre teacher could see higher scores after getting a class of geniuses.
Thirty-five years ago, a statistician, William S. Sanders, offered an answer to that puzzle. It relied, unexpectedly, on statistical methods that were developed to understand animal breeding patterns.


Kevin Carey is the vice president for education policy and knowledge management at New America and directs the Education Policy program.