Breaking News: Tennessee’s Huffman and Tulane’s Ayers Resign

Two public faces in the world of VAM announced this week that they are resigning from their leadership positions, so it is being claimed, given their high visibility (and perhaps failures) using VAMs.

First, Kevin Huffman, a big national champion of teacher accountability and perpetuator of unsubstantiated nonsense about how teachers need to “work harder” and be held more accountable when they don’t do so, just resigned from his position as the Tennessee Education Commissioner. As per an article in The Tennessean: “Huffman — a former Teach For America executive and ex-husband of controversial former Washington, D.C., Chancellor Michelle Rhee — made Tennessee a flashpoint nationally for debates over teacher evaluations, teacher licensing, Common Core standards and charter schools…In recent months, Huffman lost a handful of political fights. The state overturned a teacher license policy that tied test scores to advancing professionally and delayed a move to Common Core-aligned state testing…More than 50 superintendents had already publicly questioned his leadership, several teachers unions expressed “no confidence” even after [other] accolades; and most recently a group of 15 Republicans last summer called for his resignation.” See previous VAMboozled posts about Huffman’s more-than-controversial past in the state of Tennessee here, here, and here, but more importantly click here for the full article (from which I pulled excerpts above) explaining Huffman’s past and resignation.

Second, John Ayers, the executive director of Tulane University’s Cowen Institute for Education Initiatives, announced that he is to resign at the end of November in an article just posted in the npr_ED blog. One month ago, in what was being called a “high-profile embarrassment,” Ayers on behalf of the institute apologized for releasing a high-profile report based on faulty VAM research and then pulled the institute’s report from its once prevalent placement on its website. The report was celebrated widely in that it “proved” that students in post-Hurricane Katrina’s (largely charter) schools, despite the disadvantages they faced prior to the school-based reforms triggered by Katrina, were “beating the odds and “posting better test scores and graduation rates than predicted by their populations,” thanks to said reforms. Demographics were no longer predicting students’ educational destinies, and the institute had the VAM-based evidence to prove it. Let’s just say the leaders of the charter movement were all over this one, and also allegedly involved. It seems, now, this has at least in part led to the resignation of the institute’s leader, although “Ayers told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that the flawed report and his sudden departure are unrelated.” See a previous VAMboozled post about Ayer and this debacle here, but more importantly click here for the full nprED article in which the article author also writes quite eloquently about how “value-added modeling, it turns out, is really, really hard.”

Both incidents should “serve as a caution both to education researchers, and to those of us [e.g., policymakers, think tank organizations, members of the public] who are making decisions based on [VAM] findings.”

1 thought on “Breaking News: Tennessee’s Huffman and Tulane’s Ayers Resign

  1. Now the question is where they will go to find work and be paid to do more damage. Lack of character and incredibility seem to be qualifications for finding another job. Also wondering why Educational Researcher keeps accepting for publication studies that treat VAM as if some sort of gold standard for looking at other measures. Case in point, August/September issue massaging data from the botched MET project.

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