“Highly Regarded” Teacher Suing New York over “Ineffective” VAM Scores

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According to a recent Washington [Blog] Post written by Valerie Strauss, in New York a 17-year veteran and current 4th grade teacher, recognized by the district superintendent as having a “flawless” teaching record and being “highly regarded as an educator,” is suing the state of New York over her VAM scores that have just placed her in the “ineffective” teacher category. This is, and will prove to be very important for her and perhaps other teachers’ in general, or who might also engage in similar legal actions elsewhere.

In this case, though, the teacher’s “students consistently outperform state averages on math and English standardized tests,” and the superintendent signed an affidavit on her behalf saying “her record is flawless” and that “she is highly regarded as an educator.” In addition, he noted “[her] classroom observations have consistently identified her as an exceptional educator,” among other praises.

So, “[h]ow is it that a teacher known for excellence could be rated ‘ineffective’?” One guess: VAM.

“[T]he New York State Growth Measures [i.e., New York’s version of VAM] ‘actually punishes excellence in education through a statistical black box which no rational educator or fact finder could see as fair, accurate or reliable.” For example, “[i]n 2012-13, 68.75 percent of her students met or exceeded state standards in both English and math. She was labeled “effective” that year. In 2013-14, her students’ test results were very similar but she was rated “ineffective.” This likely occurred because she did not “grow” her students as much the second year as compared to her comparison group of peers, although any system that can be used to rate the same teacher “effective” one year and “ineffective” the next should raise eyebrows, naturally. As per the lawsuit, “This simply [and obviously] makes no sense, both as a matter of statistics and as a matter of rating teachers based upon slight changes in student performance from year to year.”

This is certainly one to watch, and I look forward to other teachers following her lead as this is something likely to ultimately be won in the courthouse. Onward!

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