Today, teachers in Houston won a major court victory against the discredited teacher evaluation method called VAM, or “value-added measurement.” The court battle was led by the AFT and the Houston Federation of Teachers.

VAM was originally developed by an agricultural statistician, William Sanders, who believed that the rise or fall of student test scores can be attributed to the students’ teachers. This theory was incorporated into the Race to the Top program, which led many states to adopt it, despite the fact that it had never been proven to Wotan in a real-world situation. Seventy percent of teachers do not teach tested subjects, which led to bizarre strategies of evaluating teachers by scores of students they never taught in subjects they never taught.

Here is the press release from the AFT about the decision:

May 4, 2017

AFT, Houston Federation of Teachers Hail Court Ruling
on Flawed Evaluation System

Statements by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Houston Federation of Teachers President Zeph Capo on U.S. District Court decision on Houston’s Evaluation Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS), known elsewhere as VAM or value-added measures:

AFT President Randi Weingarten: β€œHouston developed an incomprehensible, unfair and secret algorithm to evaluate teachers that had no rational meaning. This is the algebraic formula: π‘¦π‘–π‘—π‘˜π‘™= πœ‡π‘—π‘˜π‘™+ (Ξ£π‘˜βˆ—β‰€π‘˜Ξ£π‘€π‘–π‘—π‘˜βˆ—π‘™βˆ—π‘‘ Γ— πœπ‘–π‘—π‘˜βˆ—π‘™βˆ—π‘‘π‘‡π‘–π‘—π‘˜βˆ—π‘™βˆ—π‘‘=1)+ πœ–π‘–π‘—π‘˜π‘™

β€œU.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Smith saw that it was seriously flawed and posed a threat to teachers’ employment rights; he rejected it. This is a huge victory for Houston teachers, their students and educators’ deeply held contention that VAM is a sham.

β€œThe judge said teachers had no way to ensure that EVAAS was correctly calculating their performance score, nor was there a way to promptly correct a mistake. Judge Smith added that the proper remedy is to overturn the policy; we wholeheartedly agree. Teaching must be about helping kids develop the skills and knowledge they need to be prepared for college, career and lifeβ€”not be about focusing on test scores for punitive purposes.”

HFT President Zeph Capo: β€œWith this decision, Houston should wipe clean the record of every teacher who was negatively evaluated. From here on, teacher evaluation systems should be developed with educators to ensure that they are fair, transparent and help inform instruction, not be used as a punitive tool.”