Last week, Wendy Lecker wrote an article in the Stamford Advocate saying that she was in search of one superintendent in the state of Connecticut who was doing the right thing for kids, teachers, and the community. Wendy had read here about the courage of Joshua Starr of Montgomery County, Maryland, and Heath Morrison of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, two superintendents who bravely have spoken the truth about the corrosive effects of the misuse of testing.

Was there one such stand-up superintendent in Connecticut?

I posted her plea and that very same day, I was able to identify Tom Scarice, superintendent of Madison, Connecticut, as the one. He brought together his community, parents, and teachers, examined research, and reached agreement on the best path forward for Madison.

I named Superintendent Scarice to the honor roll as a champion of public education.

Wendy Lecker investigated, and she agreed: Tom is the real deal!

She writes here about his leadership, which involved collaboration, not dictatorship or coercion:

“The district sought volunteer educators and administrators to develop a teacher evaluation plan that adhered to the core principles of the recent state legislation. But one component of the state’s proposed teacher evaluation plan is Value Added Measurement (VAM), a highly controversial system that uses student test scores in part to rate teachers’ effectiveness. The 45-member advisory council studied three areas: the efficacy of VAM, the impact of VAM on teachers and students and the impact of VAM on the quality of education. The overarching guiding principle was the goal of preparing Madison’s students to succeed in our complex world.

“After reviewing extensive research, the council concluded that VAM is unstable, unreliable and of questionable validity. To the council, “[s]tudent learning is too central to our beliefs to rely on unreliable data when making decisions.” This conclusion is consistent with the vast body of research on VAM. Just last month, the American Institute of Research joined the growing chorus of educational experts in advising against using VAM in any high-stakes situation precisely because of its many flaws.

“The council found that VAM has a destructive effect on both students and teachers. The narrow focus on standardized test scores heightens anxiety and leads to children who are less creative, expressive and excited to learn. VAM also negatively impacts two essential components of effective instruction: teacher collaboration, and the ability to meet individual students’ needs. Furthermore, the council determined from the research that VAM’s focus on test scores is detrimental to a quality education because it narrows the curriculum and marginalizes the development of the skills Madison decided were vital to successful life outcomes, such as critical thinking, problem solving and ethical decision-making.”

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