In Marietta, GA, Teachers Might Be Scammed by the Use of VAM

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In 2010, Georgia was one of the winners of the Race to the Top competition.  The prize was half a billion dollars from the Federal government to among other things, adopt the common core standards and base teacher evaluation on student test scores.

Some more facts:

In 2012 the Georgia Department of Education applied for a NCLB “Waivers,” (full report) and again agreed to the use of student test scores as a significant part of teacher and principal evaluation.

Then,  the esteemed Georgia Legislature passed HB244 (Annual Performance Evaluations) this year.  What does this mean?

To put it nicely, another nail is now placed in the educator’s coffin.  This law, which will apply to all teachers and principals in Georgia, says:

Growth in student achievement/academic achievement shall be the priority measuring stick and shall count for at least 50% of the evaluation.
Basically its is saying that if your students had a bad year, then you or your principal caused this, and you should be punished.

VAM or SCAM

States Using Value-Added Model to Wreck Havoc on Schooling

States Using Value-Added Model to Wreck Havoc on Schooling

This simple view of learning is based on a very old and stale explanation for how our kids learn.   The teacher causes the student to learn.  If the student learns, then the student is rewarded.  If the student does not learn, then the student is punished.  And now the brilliant Georgia legislature, which meets for only 40 days each year, has decided that the teacher is the major determiner of student learning.

But hold on.  According to Georgia HB244, teachers will be punished if their student’s scores are low, or might be rewarded if their student scores increase.  It’s sort of like a mother telling a child who has finished her work, and asks for dessert, “We’ll see.”
Unfortunately for all of us, a lot of policy makers, legislators, school board members, and citizens think that what a child learns is directly caused by the teacher.  We now ask, “how much does a teacher add to the learning of students in a class?”  Probably a lot, but the method used called VAM (Value Added Model), which rhymes with SCAM.
And this is just what it is, a SCAM. If you don’t believe me then read this article on Anthony Cody’s blog, Living in Dialog, written by a Florida teacher who explains why she thinks VAM is a scam.

Why?

So why would a highly rated school system, such as the Marietta City Schools, pay a group (Education Resource Strategies) from Massachusetts to tell them how to spend their money and test their rather successful school faculty and administration?
The superintendent of Marietta City Schools said in an article in the Marietta Daily Journal that “compensation redesign is something that’s long overdue in our profession.”  I would agree with her.  But why would she throw out a system that is based on experience and qualifications and replace it with a system that is untested, unscientific, unethical, and some would say immoral.
If you look at some of America’s most prestigious organizations, experience and education level are key factors used to decide employee salaries.  Yes, performance evaluation is part of their strategy, but evaluation is not used to penalize the employee, but to improve the employee’s ability to be a better professional and contribute to the target goals and aspirations of the organization or company.
Instead, Georgia will instigate a competitive system of rewards and punishments based on how well our students do, and then use these test scores to praise or degrade teachers and principals.  How immoral is that?
Instead of a system which advocates a dog-eat-dog world, why not base it on principles of equity and high performance in which teachers are held accountable for carrying-out the highest quality educational environment in which children thrive, and are not held as pawns in a education marketplace that uses student test scores as the “bottom-line.”
To carry out this kind of teacher performance evaluation is not only shameful, it will result in many unintended consequences.  Here are a few:
Teachers and principals will do an outstanding job with our students without threats, penalties, and the kinds of rigid controls that are described in HB244.  If you are a parent, you know that when your kids come home from school, they have a more ingenious way of evaluating our teachers.  They tell you as they trust you.
Now we need to send the School Board of Marietta a message asking them to vote against the concept of a pay-for-performance plan for teachers and principals.

What would you tell the School Board of Marietta?

About Jack Hassard

Jack Hassard is a writer, a former high school teacher, and Professor Emeritus of Science Education, Georgia State University

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