Tuesday, June 3, 2014

VAM Scam!

High Stakes Testing a Scam
by AFT.org

What if your job depended on a secret algorithm and a high-stakes test? Right now, mine does.

Last year, I was recognized by the Houston Independent School District for going above and beyond in my school.

This year, I’m being labeled “ineffective,” and my job is being threatened—all because of an algorithm that leading researchers say is not a reliable measure of my impact on students.

That’s why I am joining other Houston teachers, the Houston Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers to file a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of evaluating teachers using a “value-added” performance score.
Add your voice: Teachers are not an algorithm—stop using twisted statistics to evaluate teachers.

All seven teachers filing this suit have been honored for our work in and out of the classroom, but now an algorithm says we’re falling short.

Value-added modeling (VAM)—the principle behind Houston’s Education Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS)—uses students’ performance on prior standardized tests to predict academic growth in the current year. In many places, including Houston, VAM doesn’t account for factors that have a big impact on students, like poverty and school funding; it only counts standardized tests.

Leading researchers have questioned the use of VAM in high-stakes teacher evaluation, indicating that it can be an inaccurate and unstable measure of teacher performance when used on its own. This is coming from groups like the American Statistical Association, the Rand Corp. and the Economic Policy Institute. So why are districts, legislators and even the U.S. Department of Education still pushing it as a silver bullet for education?

I work every day to make sure my students are learning, growing and preparing to succeed in both college and careers. I value meaningful feedback and information that can help me improve my instruction and boost my students’ learning.

Unfortunately, Houston’s EVAAS doesn’t provide my colleagues and me with that kind of information. In reality, it’s a system shrouded in secrecy that is hurting our students’ education.

A teacher’s impact can’t be boiled down to a secret algorithm and a high-stakes test. Stand with us to denounce VAM!
HISD and school districts across the country use this controversial methodology for decisions about teacher evaluation, compensation and termination. Worst of all, the Houston school district insists that the methodology is proprietary and confidential, meaning teachers can’t learn our scores or use the information to improve instruction. That’s why we are filing a lawsuit that asserts this system violates our constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.

We are lucky to have the support of the Houston Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Teachers and AFT President Randi Weingarten, who has led the way in denouncing value-added metrics as a sham on the national level. But we need your support too. 
Join us as we tell the city of Houston, the state of Texas and the federal government that students are more than their test scores and teachers are more than an algorithm.

In solidarity,

Daniel Santos
Social Studies Teacher
Jackson Middle School, Houston Independent School District

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