This past Sunday, the Houston Chronicle released an op-ed piece about the VAM being used by the Houston Independent School District (i.e., the widely known/used/abused EVAAS system at the source of a major lawsuit forthcoming in Houston as detailed in previous VAMboozled posts here and here). The author(s) of the piece took a righteous and appropriate stance re: this model, and also included the coveted equation in this piece as well as a follow-up piece responding to a comment made by one of the initial post’s readers (if interested, see the deeper of the two explanations of the EVAAS equation here). Both pieces are worth a read, especially as brief and to the point, and also given the main purposes of both were to help to explain the equation behind the madness of just this model.
But in the latter post, the Houston District’s Superintendent – Terry Grier – was quoted saying the following, in favor as well as defense of his/this model (this quote was used as a counterpoint even though the quote came from a prior post in the Chronicle in May).
Grier wrote: “Value-added measures are the product of nearly three decades of research by leading academicians, and its use dates to the early 1990s,” he wrote. “With this data [sic] in hand, we can identify how much individual students are expected to grow based on their history – and how much they actually grow based on their performance during the year.”
A key point of clarification here. The “leading academician” who developed this model – yes the one “leading academician” who developed this model – is named William L. Sanders. In actuality, he was an adjunct professor of agricultural statistics at a satellite campus of the University of Tennessee in the 1990s (i.e., Knoxville). He was not then and never came to be a tenure-track or tenured professor, or what Superintendent Grier heralded him as a “leading academician.” This is key to point out and understand, as adjunct professors, as a whole, are not “leading academicians” as they do not hold tenured, research positions at research universities. Rather, they are hired, again as a whole, to teach. They are not typically members of the academic faculty, nor are they officially qualified or classified as such.
On this note, some argue that this is why Sanders made his EVAAS model proprietary – he was not accustomed to how real university “academicians” typically conduct open research in research universities, whereas research is conducted for the common good, research findings are open and subjected to critique, research is open for replication to verify and also improve upon research findings, and the like. Rather, the route Sanders took, perhaps related to his adjunct role back in the 1990s, was more about personal and financial interest and gain.