The centerpiece–and the most destructive element–of Race to the Top is the insistence that teachers must be evaluated to a significant degree by the test scores of their students, whether they go up or down.

It is destructive because it makes standardized tests the purpose of education.

The tests cease to be a measure and become the aim.

That is wrong.

It leads to a narrowed curriculum, teaching to the test, and cheating.

And the measure itself is fraught with error. The teachers with high ratings one year may get low ratings the next year. Some with low ratings may get high ratings the next year. They did exactly the same things but their ratings shifted. One gets a bonus, the other gets fired. It is wrong to make the tests so consequential.

Here, if you have not read it, is an excellent summary of the VAM research, explaining why VAM is misused, by the distinguished psychometrician Edward Haertel, presented in a lecture to ETS.

You should also follow VAMboozled, which is testing expert Audrey Amrein-Beardsley’s blog. She will publish a book this spring, showing the invalidity of VAM. She points out that more than 90% of researchers in the related field agree that VAM is misused by federal policymakers.

Children are not data points; teachers do more than tests measure. Education is more than standardized tests can measure.

Neither children nor teachers nor education itself can be reduced to a metric or an algorithm.

VAM is Junk Science.

In a rational world, NCLB and the Race to the Top would be consigned–quickly–to the ash heap of history.

Hang on, friends. That day is coming.