Adding Value

Like many locals, my interest in reading the LA Times (which one blogger accused of running the “most biased top story ever in any free world newspaper“) has declined over time. But it’s worth noting the recruiting parallels as the LA Times runs what it calls “a series of articles and a database analyzing individual teachers’ effectiveness in the nation’s second-largest school district — the first time, experts say, such information has been made public anywhere in the country.”

The series (which has caused some boycotting) includes articles like this one and a big chart/database to come any day now, showing teacher-by-teacher effectiveness.  

What this is all about is adding value. The Times is trying to show — and certainly is showing, if you believe in the effectiveness of testing — the quality of teachers and schools based on the progress of their students. 

In other words, rather than showing that some schools and teachers had students who tested well, this study shows whether weaker students got better, and better students got even better. Previous studies and sites (like the award-winning non-profit GreatSchools) show which schools have high test scores, but such studies, of course, reflect people’s economic status, parental interest in education, and more.

According to the Times study, in the wealthy Tarzana area of Los Angeles, the prestigious school Wilbur is actually overrated, because the students, arriving with built-in advantages compared to kids in other parts of LA, aren’t really progressing like they should once they arrive.

People have tried this with doctors, too. With doctors, it’s similar in that showing who has the sickest and healthiest patients tells only half a story, because it reflects factors such as people’s genetics. Such a study measures whether a doctor takes sicker or healthier patients, or works in “good” or “bad” areas, rather than their effectiveness as a doctor. But if you can show whether doctors have helped people stay healthy or become healthier over time, based on a baseline from when they began with that doctor, perhaps you can show physician effectiveness.

Anyhow, I’m interested in hearing whether you think there are parallels to the recruiting and human resources field in industries outside of education and medicine. It seems to me that manager and employee effectiveness in other industries could be measured similar to how the Times is doing it. In other words, instead of measuring just the quality of a manager’s hires, you’d measure what those hired accomplished over time, and how they improved, compared to where they began. Value added.


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