Houston teachers suing over flawed VAM ratings... Ravitch, Horn and others have proved that VAM is 'junk science'

Seven Houston Texas teachers are suing over flawed ratings that resulted from the district's VAM (Value-Added Model) rating system. VAM, the latest fashion in corporate school reform, was developed in Tennessee by an agricultural economist, morphed into a product to sell to public schools, and has been debunked by every serious study done on it. Yet because school districts are insisting on "merit pay" for teachers, and because "merit pay" requires some valid and reliable way to measure so-called "merit" (corporate school reformers want test results to do the whole job, without nuance), VAM continues to rear its head.

Chicago Public Schools "Chief Accountability Officer" John Barker (right) and "Chief Officer for Innovation and Incubation" Jack Elsey (left) talking before the October 23, 2013 meeting of the Board. Elsey was brought to Chicago for his executive job from Michigan; Barker from Tennessee, both by Barbara Byrd Bennett. Barker was hired by Chicago in January 2013 at an annual salary of $175,000 per year. He was also paid a "retention bonus" of $5,000 and "relocation expenses" of $10,000. Elsey was hired by CPS a month earlier (by a vote of the December 2012 meeting) at an annual salary of $165,000 with a "relocation retention bonus" of $7,500. Substance photo by David Vance.Chicago is moving in the direction of VAM with a vengeance. Last year, the Board of Education hired John Barker, a smooth talking bureaucrat who had been in Memphis (Tennessee, the home base of the Value Added fraud) to be the "Chicago Accountability Officer" in Chicago. Barker was hired by Chicago in January 2013 at an annual salary of $175,000 per year. He was also paid a "retention bonus" of $5,000 and "relocation expenses" of $10,000 by the Board, which voted unanimously to hire him without discussion or debate as to whether someone who was coming from the most controversial VAM state in the USA was better qualified than everyone in illinois for the Chicago job.

As VAM looms to become another Chicago mess, it's worthwhile for Chicago to consider the recent report, below, from Diane Ravitch:

Seven teachers in Houston are suing the district over the use of test-score-based evaluations.

Good for them!

As a K-12 graduate of HISD, I am proud of these teachers for standing up for their profession.

I hope they will introduce as evidence the recent statement of the American Statistical Association cautioning aBout he limitations of VAM, as well as the joint statement of the National Academy of Education and the American Educational Research Association, warning that VAM produces results that are inaccurate and unstable.

Here is a good list of references the plaintiffs can use.

VAM is junk science when used to rate individual teachers. The ratings change if a different test is used. VAM sausage more about the composition of the class than the quality of the teacher.


HISD teachers to sue over job evaluation system By Ericka Mellon (Houston Chronicle)

Seven HISD teachers and the Houston Federation of Teachers union plan to file a federal lawsuit this week over the district’s teacher evaluation system, one of the first nationwide to grade teachers based on students’ test scores.

“This has been a long time coming because we have very miserable members,” said Houston Federation of Teachers president Gayle Fallon.

Fallon declined to release details of the pending lawsuit Tuesday, but she has repeatedly expressed concerns over the statistical method that the district uses to analyze a teacher’s effectiveness. A news release announcing a Thursday press conference about the lawsuit called it “unprecedented.”

The lawsuit is likely to draw national attention as more and more districts move to tie teachers’ pay and job security to student performance. Job evaluations of teachers in the past traditionally have been based on principals’ observations of teachers in their classrooms.

The president of the American Federation of Teachers union, Randi Weingarten, will be in town Thursday for the news conference.

The HISD school board approved the new teacher evaluation system in 2011 but delayed the use of test scores for a year after numerous problems, including computer glitches, confusion among teachers and a lack of appropriate exams to measure student performance.

In a statement Tuesday, HISD said, “We have and will continue to partner with appraisers, teachers, the Houston Federation of Teachers, and the Congress of Houston Teachers to gather feedback regarding the implementation of the HISD teacher appraisal and development system.”


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