VAM-Based Teacher Evaluation Collides With the Legal System

And if the judge’s questions are any indication, VAM-based teacher evaluation gets hit and dragged a couple hundred yards (boldface mine):

Lederman’s suit against state education officials — including John King, the former state education commissioner who is now a top adviser to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan — challenges the rationality of the VAM model, and it alleges that the New York State Growth Measures “actually punishes excellence in education through a statistical black box which no rational educator or fact finder could see as fair, accurate or reliable.”

Here’s what happened to Lederman: In 2012-13, 68.75 percent of her New York students met or exceeded state standards in both English and math. She was labeled “effective” that year. In 2013-2014, her students’ test results were very similar, but she was rated “ineffective.” Meanwhile, her district superintendent, Thomas Dolan, declared that Lederman — whose students received standardized math and English Language Arts test scores consistently higher than the state average — has a “flawless record.”

…On Aug. 12, New York Supreme Court Justice Roger McDonough presided over a hearing in the case — and he was not amused with the state’s case….

“Did her students learn nothing?” Justice McDonough asked. “How could it be that she went from 14 out of 20 points to 1 out of 20 points in one year?” He noted that the students’ scores were quite good and not that different from the year before.

Back behind the bell curve Ms. Galligan ran. As she tried to explain once again, the judge said, “Therein lies the imprecise nature of this measure.”


Lederman was not the only teacher in the school to get a poor score. In 2014, 21 percent of the staff at E.M. Baker School received a score of “ineffective,” 21 percent “developing” and 57 percent were “effective.” Just the year before, not one teacher received an “ineffective” score

“There is nothing in the law that requires a bell curve,” [plantiff attorney Lederman] argued. He explained that a bell curve with its forced failures violates that law that requires that every teacher must be able to get all scores. Not only did he want the court to set aside his wife’s score, he wanted the court to “declare the measure an abuse of discretion” because “the State Education Department does not get a pass on unreasonable and irrational actions.”

There are all sorts of statistical problems with evaluating individual teachers using VAM, as we’ve detailed before. But one of its many weaknesses is that teachers who teach ‘extreme’ students (very high or low performing students) get screwed since the statistical methods can fall apart when there is a maximum and minimum score and the teachers’ students are near the minimum or the maximum. To be blunt, poorly-performing students don’t have advocates, but wealthy students–and teachers from those schools do.

This case could have a seismic effect on education ‘reform.’

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1 Response to VAM-Based Teacher Evaluation Collides With the Legal System

  1. jrkrideau says:

    From everything I have read on VAM, it is best termed Validity Absent Measurement as it seems to lack any reliability or validity and is based on totally insane premises, that is, it has a total lack of construct validity. The bizarre thing is that people who should have some sense actually seem to buy into this idiotic idea.

    Don’t deal with racism, systemic poverty, underfunding and just about anything else, just do massive amounts of expensive and meaningless testing and then blame the teachers for a broken system. Obviously a good way to get elected or get a good admin job. Pity the US education system seems to be going down the tubes.

    It is not surprising that the USA is a bit short of teachers. Poor pay, low prestige as your employer tells everyone how incompetent and overpaid you are, time-wasting and useless testing, random evaluations that can get you fired — heck, it’s surprising there are any teachers left in some states. Come to think of it, are there any teachers left in Kansas?

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