In a decision that will likely reverberate through education ranks across the country, New York Supreme Count Judge Roger McDonough has ruled that fourth-grade teacher Sheri Lederman’s poor evaluation based on a VAM assessment system was “arbitrary” and “capricious.”

Lederman, a veteran teacher in the Great Neck public school district on Long Island, received an “effective” rating in the 2012-13 school year, however, the following year, even though her student’s tests scores changed little, VAM said she was “ineffective.”  Both her principal and superintendent said she her teaching was “extraordinarily effective” and her students consistently scored higher than the state average on math and English. (She was rated “effective” in 2014-15.)

Supposedly VAM uses a complicated computer model to determine scores students should make, while at the same time taking into account factors that impact student performance such as poverty level, stress and health issues.  To say VAM is controversial is an understatement.

The infamous RAISE/PREP legislation sponsored by Senator Del Marsh in the just-concluded session called for VAM to be used to evaluate Alabama teachers.  The bill got tremendous opposition from the education community because of this.

Lederman took the matter to court.  Her husband, Bruce, was her attorney.  She brought suit against then New York commissioner of education John King.  (King has since been appointed U.S. Secretary of Education by President Obama.)

The court relied on information from noted education experts such as Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University who pointed out that research shows that teachers account for only about 1-14 percent of the variability in test scores.  Darling-Hammond concluded that the New York VAM does not accurately measure teaching effectiveness.

Audrey Amrein-Beardsley of Arizona State was another expert for Lederman.  (Amrein-Beardsley commented on the Alabama RAISE act on this site.)  She noted that the New York VAM was never externally peer-reviewed and that because the scores of Lederman’s students were statistically similar in both 2012-2013 ad 2013-2014, there is strong evidence that the evaluation method used by the state showed a lack of reliability.

The lesson here.  Senator Marsh and others who supported RAISE, such as the Business Council of Alabama and the Alabama Association of School Boards, would do well to pay more attention to educators and less to folks who are uninformed.