Search results for: "VAM"

The National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice (REACH), formerly known as the Education Research Alliance, released its first report after having been funded by Betsy DeVos with $10 million to study the effects of choice in schools. REACH used value-added methodology (judging teachers by the test score gains of their students to determine that those who got the highest VAM scores were likeliest to stay. It is safe to assume that these teachers were in the highest-scoring charter schools. On the other hand, the teachers with the lowest scores (no doubt, in the lowest-performing schools) were turning over at a high rate. The study’s conclusion is that (some) charters are keeping their best teachers (those with the highest VAM ratings) but (some) charters are not, which since they don’t get high VAM scores, is not a big deal.

We are excited to announce the release of the first study from the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice (REACH). Naturally, the subject of this study is one that’s considered the most important factor in school success: teachers.

New Orleans is the first all-charter school district in the country. This makes the city the first where schools are held strictly accountable for performance, where many employers in close proximity compete for teachers, and where schools have the ability to respond to these pressures with almost complete autonomy over school personnel. If school reform advocates are right, we would expect these policy changes to produce major change in the teacher labor market. Did this happen?

To answer this question, researchers Nathan Barrett, Deven Carlson, Douglas N. Harris, and Jane Arnold Lincove compared New Orleans to similar neighboring districts from 2010 to 2015, using student test score growth to measure teacher performance. They drew the following conclusions:

Teacher retention is more closely related to teacher performance in New Orleans than in traditional public school districts. Lower performing teachers in New Orleans are 2.5 times more likely to leave their school than high-performing teachers, compared with only 1.9 times in similar neighboring districts.
The stronger link between retention and performance might imply that teacher quality would improve faster in New Orleans than in similar districts. However, this is not the case. The difference in average teacher performance between New Orleans and comparison districts remained essentially unchanged between 2010 and 2015. This is apparently because of the larger share of new teachers in New Orleans, whose lower quality roughly offsets the city’s advantages in retaining higher performing teachers.
The stronger retention-performance link in New Orleans is somewhat related to financial rewards, though not in a way that is likely to increase the overall quality of teaching. We find that higher performing teachers only receive pay increases when they switch schools, which may increase teacher turnover. High-performing teachers do not receive raises for performance when they stay in the same school.
These findings highlight the complexities of policies intended to increase the quality of teaching. Future studies will build on this work by examining how performance-based school closures affect the teacher labor market.

Read the policy brief here or the full technical report here.

Good news! The Governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, and the State Commissioner, Lamont Repollet, slashed the stakes attached to PARCC testing. Until now, 30% of a teacher’s evaluation was tied to test scores on the Common Core PARCC Test. The governor and Commissioner just dropped it to 5%.

The practice of evaluating teachers by student test scores was heavily promoted by Arne Duncan and Race to the Top. It has been widely discredited by scholarly organizations like the American Statistical Association. It remains on the books in many states as a dead vestige of the past, a zombie policy that has never worked but never died.

New Jersey drove a stake in its icy heart.

“New Jersey Commissioner of Education Dr. Lamont Repollet today announced that PARCC scores will account for only five percent of a teacher’s evaluation in New Jersey next year, down from the damaging 30 percent figure mandated by his predecessors. State law continues to require that standardized test scores play some role in teacher evaluation despite the lack of any evidence that they serve a valid purpose. In fact, researchers caution against using the scores for high-stakes decisions such as teacher evaluation. By cutting the weight given to the scores to near the bare minimum, the Department of Education and the Murphy administration have shown their respect for the research. The move also demonstrates respect for the experience and expertise of parents and educators who have long maintained that PARCC—or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers—is an intrusive, harmful test that disrupts learning and does not adequately measure student learning or teacher effectiveness.

“Today’s announcement is another step by Gov. Murphy toward keeping a campaign promise to rid New Jersey’s public schools of the scourge of high-stakes testing. While tens of thousands of families across the state have already refused to subject their children to PARCC, schools are still required to administer it and educators are still subject to its arbitrary effects on their evaluation. By dramatically lowering the stakes for the test, Murphy is making it possible for educators and students alike to focus more time and attention on real teaching and learning.

“NJEA President Marie Blistan praised Gov. Murphy and Commissioner Repollet for putting the well-being of students first and for trusting parents and educators. “Governor Murphy showed that he trusts parents and educators when it comes to what’s best for students. By turning down the pressure of PARCC, he has removed a major obstacle to quality teaching and learning in New Jersey. NJEA members are highly qualified professionals who do amazing work for students every day. This decision frees us to focus on what really matters…”

“While the move to dramatically reduce the weight of PARCC in teacher evaluation is a big win for families and educators alike, it is only the first step toward ultimately eliminating PARCC and replacing it with less intrusive, more helpful ways of measuring student learning. New Jersey’s public schools are consistently rated among the very best in the nation, a position they have held for many years. Despite that, New Jersey students and educators are among the last anywhere still burdened by this failed five-year PARCC experiment. By moving away from PARCC, New Jersey’s public education community will once again be free to focus on the innovative efforts that have long served students so well.”

Peter Greene writes here about the mass email that went to teachers in many states, advising them about their right to stop paying union dues and have no collective bargaining on their behalf.

Teachers have been targeted by the rightwing Mackinac Center in Michigan, which has never before shown any interest in teachers’ wellbeing.

But there they are, ready to help you kill off your union.

And, wow– it sure is inspiring to see the one percenters so deeply concerned about teacher freedom of speech. I mean, to devote all this time and money just because they want to make sure that every teacher has a chance to exercise her rights. It’s inspiring. Just like all those other times they were out there in the schools making sure that teachers were free to express their opinions and stand up for students and advocate for better education without fear of losing their jobs and– oh, no, wait. They DeVos’s and Koch’s were the ones agitating for the end of job protections so that teachers could be fired at any time, including for speaking up and exercising their First Amendment rights. In fact, the number of times that groups like Mackinac have been out there standing up for teachers’ rights, First Amendment and otherwise, would be, by my rough count, zero. None.

It’s almost as if this whole thing isn’t about teachers’ First Amendment right at all.

It’s almost as if this was just a ploy to bust up the unions and make sure that teachers had even less voice in the world of education. It’s almost as if this was a way to drain funds from the Democratic Party.

Do you think the Koch brothers and the DeVos care about you? Don’t be fooled.

The Ohio State Senate wants to drop changes in test scores from teacher evaluations. However, the Cleveland district objects because the superintendent clings stubbornly to standardized tests of students as a reasonable measure of teacher quality. The fact that value-added measurement has flopped nationally doesn’t matter to him.

”District CEO Eric Gordon isn’t happy about the change and still wants to use test scores as a major part of teacher ratings. He looks at student scores — particular the “value added” measure of how much students learn in a year — as an important part of gauging whether teachers are doing well or not.”

Maybe no one told him that VAM is a sham.

Laura Chapman writes here about the beast that wants to Destroy Public Education, which has many names:

Many of these schemes are part of the Education Cities initiative. I may have commented about this before.

About Education Cities: FUNDERS Laura and John Arnold foundation, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and Walton Family Foundation.


“Education Cities works with leading organizations to help our members achieve their missions.”

“Bellwether Education Partners works with Education Cities on research and capacity building projects. Bellwether is a nonprofit dedicated to helping education organizations—in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors—become more effective in their work and achieve dramatic results, especially for high-need students.”

In Cincinnati, Bellwether was the recruiter for the “Accelerate Great Schools,” initiative that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere, pushed by high profile local foundations and deep pockets in the business community—all intent on marketing the need for “high quality seats” meaning you close and open schools based on the state’s weapon-ized system of rating schools. You also increase charter schools and hire TFA. (We have a TFA alum on the school board). The CEO of Accelerate Great Schools recruited by Bellwether was a TFA manager from MindTrust in Indianapolis. He lasted about 18 months and accelerated himself to a new job.

“Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington partners with Education Cities to analyze and identify policies that create the conditions that allow great schools to thrive. Through research and policy analysis, CRPE seeks ways to make public education more effective, especially for America’s disadvantaged students.”

CRPE should be regarded as an operational arm of the Gates Foundation. It marketed the Gates “Compacts.” These are MOUs (memoranda of understanding) designed to create a “make-nice-with-your-charter schools who want to have you for lunch.” The MOUs mean that districts agree to give central office resources to charters (e.g., deals on meals and transportation) with charters promising to share their “best practices” and other nonsense. The bait to districts included $100,000 up front with the promise of more money to the district if they met x, y, z, terms of the MOU. Only few districts got extra money. Many reasons, some obvious like the departure of the people who signed the MOUs.

“Public Impact” partners with Education Cities (and Bellwether Education Partners) on research and capacity building projects. With a mission to dramatically improve learning outcomes for all children in the United States, Public Impact concentrates its work on creating the conditions in which great schools can thrive. The Opportunity Culture initiative aims to extend the reach of excellent teachers and their teams to more students, for more pay, within recurring budgets. Public Impact, a national research and consulting firm, launched the Opportunity Culture initiative’s implementation phase in 2011, with funding from The Joyce Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.” Current work is funded by the Overdeck Family Foundation and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.”

Get past the self-aggrandizing rhetoric and you see that Public Impact is marketing 13 school turnaround models, almost all of these with reassignments of teachers and students to accommodate “personalized” something. One arm of the “opportunity culture” website is a job placement service for teachers. In prior USDE administrations, Public Impact and Bellwether worked together to get federal support for charter schools.Both have political clout.

“Thomas B. Fordham Institute partners with Education Cities to analyze and identify policies and practices that create the conditions that allow great schools to thrive. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute works to advance educational excellence for every child through research, analysis, and commentary, as well as on-the-ground action and advocacy in Ohio.”

Well, we have a pretty good idea in Ohio of how all of that pontification worked out.

Here are the cities in the foundation-led move to eliminate democratically elected school boards and fold public schools into a portfolio of contract schools that receive public funds but are privately operated. At one time the number of Education Cities was 30, then 28, now 25.

Albuquerque, NM, Excellent Schools New Mexico
Baton Rouge, LA New Schools for Baton Rouge
Boise, ID Bluum
Boston, MA Boston Schools Fund, Empower Schools
Chicago, IL, New Schools for Chicago
Cincinnati, OH, Accelerate Great Schools
Denver, CO, Gates Family Foundation, Donnell-Kay Foundation
Detroit, MI, The Skillman Foundation
Indianapolis, IN, The Mind Trust
Kansas City, MO, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
Las Vegas, NV, Opportunity 180
Los Angeles, CA, Great Public Schools Now
Memphis, TN, Memphis Education Fund
Minneapolis, MN, Minnesota Comeback
Nashville, TN, Project Renaissance
New Orleans, LA, New Schools for New Orleans
Oakland, CA, Educate78, Great Oakland Public Schools Leadership Center, Rogers Family Foundation
Philadelphia, PA, Philadelphia School Partnership
Phoenix, AZ, New Schools for Phoenix
Richmond, CA, Chamberlin Family Foundation
Rochester, NY, E3 Rochester
San Jose, CA, Innovate Public Schools
Washington, DC, Education Forward DC, CityBridge Education

These cities have been targeted by national and local non-profits for capture by promoters of choice, charters, and tech. This is a national effort designed to make school “reform” look like it is a local initiative, inspired by generosity and driven by civic values and “partnerships” in combination with “forward thinking” associated with a chamber of commerce campaign. Look at the names of these initiatives; New Schools, Education Forward, Comeback, Renaissance, and so on. Marketing market-based and corporate managed education is the aim and it is sought by pushing the idea that established public schools are failures

A new study of teacher evaluation finds that the more that value-added test scores count, the lower teachers are rated.

“Among the most important findings from this new study: When value-added scores are incorporated into evaluations, the ratings tend to go down. And the more weight a system puts on value-added scoring, the lower the scores are likely to be, the study showed.

“That’s because value-added scores tend to be relative measures, explained Kraft. Value added is generally “designed to just compare you to your peers,” he said. “Everybody can’t be good with value added.”

“On the other hand, with classroom observation scores, everyone can be excellent, he said.

“And that leads to a huge caveat in all of this: As it stands, despite the variation in systems, almost all teachers across the country continue to get positive ratings.

“That’s largely because observation scores make up the meat of most teacher evaluation systems, said Kraft. And as we know from previous research, principals tend to rate their teachers highly.”

Audrey Amrein-Beardsley writes here to explain the importance of judicial decision to terminate VAM in Houston. Houston tied test scores to very high stakes. In one year alone, 221 teachers were fired based on their VAM scores.

Yet when the case went to trial, representatives of the district could not explain or justify the algorithms that determined the fate of teachers.

This case should be cited wherever VAM is used. It is an inexplicable and punitive formula that is incapable of evaluating teacher quality. It is a fraud.

This is why unions exist. No teacher has the resources to fight VAM. The union did, and he awarded the union its legal expenses.

I hope all those unjustly fired teachers get their jobs back.

After a long court fight in Houston, the school district agreed not to use value-added scores to evaluate teachers, because it was unable to explain what the algorithms for evaluating teacher performance meant or how they were calculated. The district also agreed to pay the lawyers’ fees for the Texas AFT, which fought the use of VAM.

What is the purpose of unions? To fight for the rights of teachers. No individual teacher (unless married to a lawyer) could have pursued this remedy on his or her own. The union had the resources to protect teachers from an unfair, nonsensical, illegitimate way of evaluating their teaching.

By the way, the courts in Houston were a lot wiser than the courts in Florida, which upheld the practice of evaluating teachers based on the test scores of students they do not teach in subjects they do not teach. The court in Florida said it was “unfair,” but constitutional. How can it be constitutional to have your teaching license depend on the work that others do, in which you have no part at all?

For Immediate Release
October 10, 2017

Zeph Capo

Janet Bass

Federal Suit Settlement: End of Value-Added Measures
for Teacher Termination in Houston

HOUSTON—In a huge victory for the right of teachers to be fairly evaluated, the Houston Independent School District agreed, in a settlement of a federal lawsuit brought by seven Houston teachers and the Houston Federation of Teachers, not to use value-added scores to terminate a teacher as long as the teacher is unable to independently test or challenge the score.

Value-added measures for teacher evaluation, called the Education Value-Added Assessment System, or EVAAS, in Houston, is a statistical method that uses a student’s performance on prior standardized tests to predict academic growth in the current year. This methodology—derided as deeply flawed, unfair and incomprehensible—was used to make decisions about teacher evaluation, bonuses and termination. It uses a secret computer program based on an inexplicable algorithm: = + (Σ∗≤Σ∗∗ × ∗∗∗∗=1)+ .

In May 2014, seven Houston teachers and the Houston Federation of Teachers brought an unprecedented federal lawsuit to end the policy, saying it reduced education to a test score, didn’t help improve teaching or learning, and ruined teachers’ careers when they were incorrectly terminated. Neither HISD nor its contractor allowed teachers access to the data or computer algorithms so that they could test or challenge the legitimacy of the scores, creating a “black box.” In May 2017, the federal district court in Houston issued a decision stating that, “HISD teachers have no meaningful way to ensure correct calculation of their EVAAS scores, and as a result are unfairly subject to mistaken deprivation of constitutionally protected property interests in their jobs.”

HFT President Zeph Capo said: “This victory should mark the end of a destructive era that put tests and a broken evaluation system over making sure our students leave school well prepared for college, career and life. As a practical matter, this ends the use of value-added to terminate teachers in HISD because the district does not have a contractor that is willing or able to meet the constitutional due process standards spelled out by the court.”

Daniel Santos, one of the plaintiffs and an award-winning sixth-grade teacher at Navarro Middle School who was rated ineffective by the flawed EVAAS method, was elated with the settlement.

“I have always been devoted to my students and proud of my teaching skills. Houston needs a well-developed system that properly evaluates teachers, provides good feedback and ensures that educators will receive continuous, targeted professional development to improve their performance,” Santos said.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said the agreement not to use value-added measures for this purpose is the latest nail in the coffin of using tests as a punitive tool. The Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal education law that replaced the No Child Left Behind Act, eliminated the emphasis on test scores.

“Testing and EVAAS don’t measure critical or analytical thinking skills, don’t allow for engaging learning, and certainly don’t improve or create joy in teaching or learning. Instead of value-added methods, let’s value what kids really need: attention to their well-being, engaging and powerful learning, a collaborative school environment, and opportunities for teachers to build their skills throughout their careers,” Weingarten said.

In addition to agreeing to restrict its use of value-added measures, including EVAAS scores, the school district agreed to create an instructional consultation panel—with representatives from the district and the faculty—to discuss and make recommendations on the district’s teacher appraisal process. The settlement also requires HISD to pay Texas AFT $237,000 for attorney’s fees and expenses related to the lawsuit.

Here is the amended summary judgment opinion.

It is called VAM. Value-added-measurement, or value-added-modeling. It means measuring the effectiveness of teachers by the rise or fall of the test scores of their students.

Rachel M. Cohen, writing in The American Prospect, documents the slow but steady retreat from evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students. Only a few years ago, VAM was lauded by Secretary of a Education Arne Duncan as the ultimate way to determine which teachers were succeeding and which were failing; Duncan made it a condition of competing for Race to the Top billions, and more than 40 states agreed to adopt it; Bill Gates spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting it; a team of economists led by Raj Chetty of Harvard claimed that the actions of a teacher in elementary school predicted teen pregnancy, adult earnings, and other momentous life consequences, and earned front-page status in the anew York Times; and thousands of teachers and principals were fired because of it.

But time is the test, and time has not been kind to VAM.

Cohen reviews the role of the courts, with some refusing to get involved, and others agreeing that VAM is arbitrary and capricious. She credits Duncan and Gates for their role in creating this monstrous and invalid way of evaluating teachers. The grand idea, having cut down many good teachers, is nearing its end. But not soon enough.

The New York Times published a tribute by Kevin Carey of the New America Foundationto William Sanders, “the little-known statistician who taught us to measure teachers.”

One hates to speak ill of the dead, but accuracy requires that we note that Sanders’ statistical model for “measuring” teachers was flawed, inaccurate, and damaged the lives of thousands of teachers based on Sanders’ obscure algorithms. Sanders was an agricultural statistician before he found a goldmine in education. Measuring teacher quality really is not akin to measuring cattle or crops. Every analysis of the influences on students’ test performance gives far more weight to family income and education than to the teachers who see her or him for an hour or five hours a day. Sanders tried to remove human judgment from the equation and ended up creating a profitable business that distorted teaching and learning into a struggle for higher test scores. If the tests themselves are invalid, then any accountability measures based on them will be invalid.

No one knows William Sanders’ works and its flaws better than Audrey Amrein-Beardsley. She has studied Sanders’ value-added measures for years and testified against them in court. She comments on the New York Times’ article here. Amrein-Beardsley points out that Sanders’ methods have been faring poorly in court because it is unfair to judge a teacher based on a mysterious algorithm that no one can understand or explain.

In my book Reign of Error, I wrote about the fallacy behind Sanders’ reasoning by quoting a song from “The Fantasticks.” I paid $1200 for the right to reprint the lyrics. It is the one that goes “Plant a radish, get a radish, not a sauerkraut./That’s why I love vegetables, they know what they’re about.”

No one can say the same about children. Children from the same parents are different, even when their upbringing is as identical as those parents can make it. They look different, they act different, they have different interests, they have different goals.

Sanders never understood that.