stephanie jones

Listen up folks – “Valued-Added” model doesn’t work

In economics and economies, Education Policy, high-stakes tests, justice, NCLB on May 18, 2012 at 2:13 am

We have heard about the “value-added” model as a way to evaluate a teacher’s effectiveness. It’s strictly a mathematical formula that is designed to result in 50% of teachers demonstrating “value added” and 50% of teachers demonstrating “value subtracted” based on students’ test scores.

That, alone, is problematic.

But the way statistical models work is never as objective and certain as they are made out to be.

One of the best teachers – yes, really, one of the best – can actually land on the bottom of the “value-added” list.

Read this Washington Post essay by Aaron Pallas who describes in plain English how this is possible and how it actually happened to a teacher in New York City.

Then ask yourself some questions:

1 – Why do we keep trying to quantify education when a) the process of teaching/learning is simply not quantifiable, and b) the ways we try to quantify educational processes are completely invalid and are used in dangerous ways that impact people’s lives?

2 – Why do we act like these (seriously flawed) statistics matter and even allow newspapers to publish teachers in rank order based on them?

3 – Why would any smart person want to be part of a profession that is constantly being beaten down, scrutinized, punished, criticized, and blamed for all the ills of the world? My guesses include: 1) That person doesn’t read newspapers; 2) That person still wants to change the world for children, youth, and families and decides to put up the good fight against the machine.

4 – When will we begin calculating “value-added” statistics for Fortune 500 CEOs and CFOs, bankers, mortgage brokers, politicians, prison CEOs, and other people and groups of people who do more damage to our citizens and land than any teacher could ever do over many lifetimes?

The spotlight is pointed in the wrong direction folks – and the distraction is keeping us all focused on things that don’t matter much in the bigger picture. We live in a society focused almost entirely on social control: regimented schooling, strict reporting of “data”, mass incarceration, lower wages for folks on the bottom of the ladder and higher incomes than ever for those on the top.

Test scores? Really? We are going to continue to spend billions of dollars on designing, publishing, distributing, preparing for, taking, giving, scoring, analyzing, reporting, reporting on the reporting of test scores? And then act as if it’s not about funneling taxpayers’ money to some of the largest corporations in the country even as wage workers in schools are hit with lay-offs, furloughs, pay-cuts, and more and more fear through the use of invalid and downright false data about them? And then we’ll pretend those test scores are so important that we will ruin kids’ lives by retaining them, deflating their self-confidence and self-worth, hold the test score over their 8-year old and 13-year old heads, and fill families with constant conflict and heartbreak and frustration?

We are missing the point here, distracted by all these absurd details. This is about 1) money, and 2) fear, punishment, and social control.

The insanity just won’t quit.


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