VAM is the acronym for value-added measurement, a highly-controversial method of evaluating teachers being used in some states.
In theory, here is how it works. A formula projects the score a student is expected to receive on a standardized test. If the student exceeds this score, then the teacher gets a positive evaluation, however, if the student is below their projected score, then the teacher is judged as being less than effective.
But as with so many things, the devil is in the details. Or in this case, perhaps with how well a computer is programed. Consequently there are horror stories about how VAM has actually worked–or better stated–not worked. (The American Statistical Association came out with a report last year that stated: VAMs are generally based on standardized test scores and do not directly measure potential teacher contributions toward other student outcomes.
Florida has embraced VAM wholeheartedly. And given that apparently some policymakers in Alabama would like to turn our public education system into Florida Lite, we need to pay attention to the Sunshine State and their continuing missteps in education reform.
Luke Flynt teaches English in a middle school in the Indian River School District in Florida. Here is a video of Flynt speaking to his local school board about his own experiences with VAM. After watching it, all you can do is shake your head.
For instance, he explains how one of his 6th-grade students had a predicted score of 286.34–yet the highest score possible on the test was 283. The student did score 283–a perfect score. However, she counted negatively on Flynt’s evaluation because she did not reach a score that was impossible to reach.
He goes on to explain that of his 102 students, 50 of them were short of their predicted scores, which counted against his teacher effectiveness rating. But of these, 58 percent answered at least 90 percent of the test questions correctly.
And we should follow Florida’s example? Only if we agree to do nothing they do.