David Patten, a former history teacher, college instructor, and author, recently wrote an excellent article for the History News Network about VAMs in his state of Ohio (another state that uses the Education Value-Added Assessment System [EVAAS] statewide). He writes about what the state of Ohio is getting in terms of its bang for its buck, at a rate of $2.3 million bucks per year. Just to be clear, this includes the costs to calculate just the state’s value-added estimates, as based on the state’s standardized tests, and this does not include what the state also pays yearly for its standardized tests, in and of themselves.
You can read the full article here, but here are some of the key highlights as they directly pertain to VAMs in Ohio.
Patten explains that Ohio uses a five level model that combines teachers’ EVAAS scores with scores derived via their administrators’ observations into what is a 50/50 teacher evaluation model, that ultimately results in a four category teacher ranking system including the following teacher quality categories: 1. Ineffective, 2. Developing, 3. Skilled, and 4. Accomplished. While Ohio is currently using its state tests, it is soon to integrate and likely replace these with the Common Core tests tests and/or tests purchased from “approved vendors.”
As for the specifics of model, however, he writes that the EVAAS system (as others have written extensively) is pretty “mysterious” beyond that – the more or less obvious.
What exactly is the mathematical formula that will determine the fate of our teachers and our educational systems? Strangely enough, only the creators know the mysterious mix; and they refuse to reveal it.
The dominant corporation in the field of value added is SAS, a North Carolina company. Their Value Added Assessment and Research Manager is Dr. William Sanders [the topic of a previous post here] who is also the primary designer of their model. While working at the University of Tennessee, his remarkable research into agricultural genetics and animal breeding inspired the very model now in use for teacher evaluation. The resultant SAS [EVAAS] formula boasts a proprietary blend of numbers and probabilities. Since it is a closely guarded intellectual property, it becomes the classic enigma wrapped up in taxpayer dollars. As a result, we are urged to take its validity and usefulness as an article of faith. SAS and their ilk have, in fact, become the frackers of the educational world [emphasis added.] They propose to drill into our educational foundations, inject their algorithmic chemicals into our students and instructors, and just like the frackers of the oil and gas world, demand that we trust them to magically get it right.
Strangely enough, Ohio is not worried about this situation. Indeed, no one at the Ohio Department of Education has embraced even the pretense of understanding the value added model it adopted. Quite to the contrary, they admitted to never having seen the complete model, let alone analyzing it. They have told us that it does not matter, for they do not need to understand it. In their own words, they have chosen to “rely upon the expertise of people who have been involved in the field.” Those are remarkable words and admissions and they are completely consistent with an educational bureaucracy sporting the backbone of an éclair.
In terms of dollars and cents, trust comes at a very high price. Ohio will pay SAS, Inc. an annual fee of 2.3 million dollars to calculate value added scores. I found very similar fees in the other states making use of their proprietary expertise.
Should we be afraid of this mystical undertaking? Of course not, instead, we should be terrified. Not only are we stumbling into the dark, unseen room and facing all the horror that implies, but the research into the effectiveness of the model shows it to be as educationally decrepit as the high stakes testing upon which it is based…
…Mark Twain supposedly said, “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are just putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.” Whether the value added advocates are smart people or imbeciles is unknown to me. What is known to me is that value added has no value. Through it and through standardized testing we have become the architects of an educational system of breathtaking mediocrity. One more thing is abundantly clear; no student and no teacher should ever accept a ride from the “Value Added Valkyries.”
To read more, also about the research Patten highlights to substantiate his claims, again, click here.
David Patten is an award-winning history teacher, college lecturer, and the author of articles – See more at: http://www.hnn.us/article/155515#sthash.LhlVpLyH.dpuf