Audrey Amrein-Beardsley posted a guest blog by a rising star in the Academy, Jimmy Scherrer of North Carolina State University, who previously taught in LAUSD.

Scherrer wrote:

“As someone who works with students in poverty [see also a recent article Scherrer wrote in the highly esteemed, peer-reviewed Educational Researcher], I am deeply troubled by the use of status measures—the raw scores of standardized assessments—for accountability purposes. The relationship between SES and standardized assessment scores is well known. Thus, using status measures for accountability purposes incentivizes teachers to work in the most advantaged schools.

“So, I am pleased with the increasing number of accountability systems that are moving away from status measures. In their place, systems seem to be favoring value-added estimates. In theory, this is a significant improvement. However, the manner in which the models are currently being used and how the estimates are currently being interpreted is intellectually criminal. The models’ limitations are obvious. But, as a learning scientist, what’s most alarming is the increasing use of the estimates generated by value-added models as a proxy for “effective” teaching…..”

“Typically, research studies on teaching and learning are framed using one of three perspectives: the behaviorist, the cognitivist, and the situative. Each perspective is associated with a different grain size. The behaviorist perspective focuses on basic skills, such as arithmetic. The cognitivist perspective focuses on conceptual understanding, such as making connections between addition and multiplication. The situative perspective focuses on practices, such as the ability to make and test conjectures. Effective teaching includes providing opportunities for students to strengthen each focus. However, traditional standardized assessments mainly contain questions that are crafted from a behaviorist perspective. The conceptual understanding that is highlighted in the cognitivist perspective and the participation in practices that is highlighted in the situative perspective are not captured on traditional standardized assessments. Thus, the only valid inference that can be made from a value-added estimate is about a teacher’s ability to teach the basic skills and knowledge associated with the behaviorist perspective.”

This, he writes, is “intellectually criminal” and “intellectually lazy.”

Tell it! VAM is Junk Science.