Value added scores, statistical estimates of teacher quality, are representative of neoliberal logic. The higher average scores of teachers of socially advantaged students raise concerns that scores are inaccurate and unfair, and propagate decontextualized neoliberal understandings of the nature of learning and teachers’ work. This study uses longitudinal data from roughly 4,500 teachers in a large urban district between 2007–08 through 2012–13 to follow individual teachers as they switch into schools of different “performance levels” over time. Fixed-intercept models tracking individual teachers between 2007–08 and 2012–13 showed scores increased for teachers who switched into high-performing schools and decreased for teachers who switched into low-performing schools. Particularly indicative of scores biased by contextual factors outside teachers’ control, score changes for mobile teachers are partially attributable to shifts in the economic status and race of students in teachers’ classrooms and schools. Understanding how neoliberalism operates within education provides sociological insight into how neoliberalism is legitimated and perpetuated in other central social institutions, such as the criminal justice system, the environment, gender, sexuality, and health.
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Shifrer, D. (2020). Contextualizing Educational Disparities and the Evaluation of Teacher Quality. Social Problems. (Accepted Manuscript)
Available for download on Sunday, May 16, 2021