Arne Duncan’s Reaction to Recent VAM Research

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Valerie Strauss wrote a recent piece for the Washington Post about an email she recently sent to Arne Duncan — the current U.S. Secretary of Education who is (still) advancing VAMs for the nation. She wrote him directly to get his take on the “growing mountain of evidence [that] has shown that the method now used in most states, known as “value-added measures,” is not reliable. With [specific attention paid to the] two [most] recent reports released” on VAMs, one being the position statement released by the American Statistical Association and the other being a peer-reviewed article recently published in which researchers also found “surprisingly weak” correlations among VAMs and other teacher quality indicators including teacher observations.

His response? As sent via email from Duncan’s Press Secretary:

“Including measures of how well students are learning as part of multiple indicators of educator effectiveness is part of a set of long-needed changes that will improve classroom learning for kids. Growth measures are a significant improvement over the system that existed before, which failed to produce useful distinctions in teacher performance. Growth measures — including value-added measures — focus attention on student learning and show progress. While these measures are better than what existed before, educators will continue to improve them, and sharp, critical attention from the research community can help.”

As to whether Duncan is aware of the latest research, Duncan’s press secretary wrote:

“We keep track of all major research on this topic.”

Whether Duncan is integrating the research into his thinking about his policy approach in this area is another question, or rather a question implicitly answered by these responses.

See the full piece here.

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