On Monday, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) opened the most expensive school in American history: the $578 million Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the 24-acre complex costs roughly $140,000 per student. Parts of the school were designed to replicate historic buildings on the grounds where the school was built, including the Cocoanut Grove nightclub. In the warped logic that justifies so many government decisions, somehow a nightclub seemed the perfect environment for a student to learn mathematics and history.
The shocking sticker price for the Los Angeles school grabbed headlines across the nation. But in Southern California, at least some teachers weren’t expressing outrage about such wasteful spending on buildings at the expense of students. Less than 48 hours after the opening of LAUSD’s extravagant school structure, members of the United Teachers Los Angeles union were outside the Los Angeles Times building, protesting the newspaper’s recent publication of a database which evaluated teacher performance in the school district.
According to the Times, the online database ranked 6,000 third- through fifth-grade teachers “by their effectiveness in improving students' scores on standardized math and English tests during a seven-year period.” The paper also explained that the “value-added method looks at previous student test performance and estimates how much a teacher added to or subtracted from a student's progress.” Teachers howled that this was unfair, since teachers are “more than test scores.”
The United Teachers Los Angeles pronounced it “the height of journalistic irresponsibility to make public these deeply flawed judgments about a teacher's effectiveness."
Since when is it flawed or irresponsible to demand accountability? When taxpayers pour billions into the public education system every year, doesn’t it make sense to determine whether that money is being spent effectively and efficiently?
One teacher even vented, "The Times has reneged on its mission of telling the truth." Really? It seems like the LA Times is finally living up to its journalistic responsibilities by offering the facts and letting readers decide. Another teacher claimed that some of her peers were “despondent over the rankings.” Is there any consideration of the feelings of students trapped in the classrooms of these “despondent” teachers—the students not being equipped with the skills necessary for a prosperous future?