Okay. Here is a multiple choice question for you to consider:
DEM, LEM, and TEM are:
a. Nicknames for the latest X-Box game superheroes
b. Abbreviations for newly discovered planets outside the solar system
c. Names of three new political parties in the State of Georgia
d. Acroynms for Georgia’s system wide approach to effectiveness and accountability
Well. How did you do? The answer is “d,” and you can find these terms in charts and discussions in the State of Georgia’s first proposal for The Race to the Top competition. A DEM is the acroynm for District Effectiveness Measure; LEM is the ancroynm for Leader Effectiveness Measure; and TEM—you guessed it, is the acroynm for Teacher Effectivess Measure. All of these measures will have a significant student growth component, and of course the state will develop a “establish a clear and transparent approach to measuring student growth.” Now, if you believe this, I’ll sell you a bridge!
Here is another question which is related to the discussion above:
Which of the following describes the meaning of a VAM?
The correct answer here is “c,” value-added-model. VAM is a statistical way of calculating value-added scores at the teacher level. The Georgia Race to the Top proposal puts it this way: VAMs are “a collection of complex statistical techniques that use multiple years of students’ test score data to estimate the effects of individual schools or teachers on student learning.”
The research to support the use of VAMs is non-substantial, yet educators at the state level in Georgia (and all of the States that submitted proposals to Race to the Top) are going to use test scores derived from high-stakes testing at the end of year, along with data from students’ previous tests, to estimate how much value an individual teacher added to an individual student’s learning. It can not be done, yet it appears as if it will happen.
Why? For the past twenty years, education has been driven by private corporations, advocacy groups and institutes, and private funding agencies to create an agenda of school choice, charter schools, for profit schools, funding of advocacy groups, performance-based teacher pay programs, competition, deregulation, “tight” management, and “investments” in education. This agenda has also included the development of a set of Core Common Standards in math and English/language arts. Forty-eight states have bought into this movement, and in order to be considered for Race to the Top Funding, a state must agree to adopt them. There is a very small group of people behind all of this. For example, the Gates Foundation provided free consulting services to 15 states (including Georgia) in the re-write of their phase II proposal for Race to the Top funds. As I pointed out in the last post, a few very large groups are providing the funding for this movement, and will also be in line to “help” with the development of a battery of national tests.
The research to support any of these proposals is shoddy, at best. In fact, one resource that I recommend you explore is the Board of Testing and Assessment (BOTA) of The National Academies. BOTA was so concerned about how tests and assessments were going to be used in the Race to the Top proposals that they wrote a detailed letter to the U.S. Department of Education Race to the Top Fund. The letter (which you can read online) cautions the use of VAM and NAEP tests as reported here in the abstract:
This report examines the Race to the Top initiative–a $4.35 billion grant program included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to encourage state-level education reforms. The report strongly supports rigorous evaluations of programs funded by the Race to the Top initiative. The initiative should support research based on data that links student test scores with their teachers, but should not prematurely promote the use of value-added approaches, which evaluate teachers based on gains in their students’ performance, to reward or punish teachers. The report also cautions against using the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federal assessment that helps measure overall U.S. progress in education, to evaluate programs funded by the Race to the Top initiative.
Departments of Education at the State and National levels have become enamored with the large scale efforts of organizations such as the National Governors Council and the Council of Chief State Officers-, and the financial apparatus to support these, and other advocacy groups to control educational reform, and steer us down a path that will not help the students that desperately need the help.