Archive for the ‘value-added model’ Category

We’re Back to “Value-added” Again?

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

About one year ago the education world learned about the “value-added” statistical model (VAM), beloved by Eric Hanushek of Stanford and many others, when the Los Angeles Times used a formula calculating the “value-added” to give a score to all the third grade teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School district.

Teachers were unhappy and why shouldn’t they be? At the time, this blog advocated an evaluation plan be built first, including “value-added” statistics only if it would give those being accountable in some way to improve student academic achievement or help assess a school’s needs.

This year New York City schools used the tool to assess scores received by students and evaluating teachers for improvement. Of course, no evaluation tool, often called accountability, had received consensus ahead of the testing in New York City. After the value-added model (VAM) came out for New York schools and the lowest-scoring teacher had, in the past, been rated high-performing, disadvantages were noticed about a complex tool not yet understood.

The first objection is that the country, state, or school district has not agreed on a test that can be compared. Next, which teachers receive a “value-added” score? This is certainly a problem in the middle and high school, but also in the elementary school with resource teachers. Misjudgments about teachers can be made. A school’s change efforts can be hampered.

This blog has discussed several initiatives coming up in the November election. California has not looked into VAM or evaluation as a state-too concerned about money in the state budget. Some counties have investigated the term. In the meantime, just this week a report from the Council on Foreign Relations got involved in schools under the auspices of the well-known Condoleeza Rice and the former New York schools superintendent Joel Klein.

What does the Council on Foreign Relations know about “value-added?” The report caught the eye of this blog which is always looking for a good word for teachers. It states the country needs national security skills such as foreign languages and computer programming. Sounds good?

The report also suggests Common Core Standards-a good thing supported by all; students should have “choices” for schools-which means money; and a national security audit should be developed by the states-what does that mean besides the “cost?” Several members of the task force did not agree. Go to Tuesday’s PBS Newshour for more information. The news reports did not discuss how teachers will be accountable for student success so that the national security will be upheld.

A 2003 RAND Education report did provide both advantages and disadvantages to “value-added” evaluation. For those that like clean mathematical models, the “value-added” model is wonderful, as it cleans up any variables that influence scores like family background. On the other hand, a long range database must be developed to find enough data so that the numbers are reliable-a problem for most research. VAM is looked upon with suspicion by teachers and school districts because it involves a complex system of statistical tools.

Teachers are waiting for time to develop a decent accountability plan with strategies to guide them. They rarely have time to read the research and understand the pros and cons of “value-added” models, though several are available, but not established. A policy goal from the Council on Foreign Relations that worries about national security is far down the road.