Justin Parmenter remembers when he first learned about his value-added score. It was positive, and he was happy. He didn’t really understand how it was calculated (nor did anyone else), but the important thing was that it said he was a good teacher.

Justin teaches at Waddell Language Academy in Charlotte, North Carolina.

In the next few years, his score went up, or down, or up. It made no sense.

One of his friends, who was known as a superb teacher, got low scores. That made no sense.

He writes about it here:

The results for many other colleagues, when compared with anecdotal information and school-level data which we knew to be accurate, were equally confusing, and sometimes downright demoralizing. Measures billed by the SAS corporation as enabling teachers to “make more informed, data-driven decisions that will positively influence student outcomes” instead left them with no idea how to do so. Yet despite the obvious problems with the data, there were rumblings in the district about moving toward a system where teacher salaries were determined by EVAAS effectiveness ratings — a really scary proposition in the midst of the worst recession in decades.

The legislature in North Carolina went whole-hog for measuring teachers and trying to incentivize them with bonuses:

Despite the growing questions about its efficacy, taxpayers of North Carolina continue to spend more than $3.5 million a year for EVAAS, and SAS founder and CEO James Goodnight is the richest man in the state, worth nearly $10 billion. The view that, like a good business, we will somehow be able to determine the precise value of each member of our ‘corporation’ and reward them accordingly, persists — as does the notion that applying business strategies to our schools will help us achieve desired outcomes.

In 2016, state legislators set aside funds to reward third grade teachers whose students showed significant growth on standardized tests and high school teachers whose students passed Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams. Under this system of merit pay, which will continue through 2018, third grade teachers compete against each other to get into the top 25 percent for reading test growth. But if the General Assembly’s goal was to increase teachers’ effectiveness by motivating them to dig deep for the ideas they’d been holding back, the plan seems to have backfired.

I spoke with teachers from across the state and found there was zero impact from the bonus scheme in some schools and negative impacts in others. Some teachers weren’t even aware that there had been a bonus available for them to work toward, indicating a crucial breakdown in communication if the goal was to create a powerful incentive. On the other end of the scale, some teachers had been very aware of the bonus and had jockeyed for position to land students who were primed for the highest amount of growth. When these sizable bonuses were awarded — $9,483 to some teachers in Mecklenburg Count — resentment flared among teachers who had previously collaborated and shared best practices to the benefit all students. It takes a village to educate a child, and the General Assembly’s plan ignored key players who contribute to student growth — everyone from school counselors to EC teachers to literacy specialists.

And at the same time that politicians were forcing bonuses and merit pay on teachers, the corporate world was starting to recognize that collaboration and teamwork were far more valuable than competition among individuals (W. Edwards Deming wrote about this again and again for many years, addressing the corporate world).

Parmenter concludes:

The vast majority of the teachers I know are not motivated by money, they are driven by a desire to change people’s lives. They are in it for the outcomes, not the income. We can encourage the reflection that helps them hone their craft without using misleading data that fails to capture the complexity of learning. We can make desired outcomes more likely by nurturing collaboration among educators whose impact is multiplied when they work together. As our leaders chart the course forward, they need to look to those educators — not the business world — to help inform the process.