Value-Added in the Courthouse

As I wrote in a recent post, I believe that the VAM “wars” will be won out in the courthouse, primarily given some of the key lawsuits currently underway across states (e.g., New Mexico, New York, Tennessee, Texas), and despite the “landmark loss” last June with the “Vergara v. California” case.

In a recent article written by Emma Stone of The Washington Post, she also highlights how said “[c]ontentious teacher-related policies [are] moving from legislatures to the courts,” and how “[n]ow the largest unions in the country” are turning to the courts “to fight for one of their most pressing interests: An end to test-based evaluations they say are arbitrary and unfair.” This is ultimately “giving judges the chance to make decisions that could shape the way teachers are hired, fired and paid” well into the future.

Specifically highlighted in this article are the cases in New Mexico (click also here) and Tennessee (click also here and here), but there are two others still to watch in Texas (click here) and New York (click here). There is also another case in Florida in federal appeals court (click here).

As per Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT:) “There will be more challenges because things are not being seen as credible and fair…What we’ve gotten to is this routinized, mechanized displacement of human judgment, and that’s what I think you’re seeing — that is the underlying issue that is the root of this agita about evaluations.” She added “It’s ridiculous that we have to go to the courts,” but  education officials (really across states) and “other supporters of test-based evaluation are deaf to evidence that the evaluations aren’t working.”

As the counterpoint, Eric Hanushek – Economist, Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the (conservative) Hoover Institution of Stanford University, and visible/active supporter of VAMs for teacher evaluation – responded that “[e]ssentially teacher unions don’t want any evaluation,” adding that  “[t]hat’s what [the unions are] angling for.”

I try to refrain from cursing (most of the time) but I’m tempted on this one…especially given an “academic” made such a non-academic comment given (most of) the current research on the topic and despite (and in spite of) the “growing number of groups” that have voiced research-informed skepticism about VAMs, in particular regarding their uses for teacher evaluation. These groups include, most notably, the National Academy of Education (NAE), of which Hanushek is a member, the American Statistical Association (ASA), the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), and the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), to name a few.

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