“VAMboozlers”

This page is reserved for what we have unfortunately termed our VAMboozlers – VAM Scholars whose research we would advise consumers to consume carefully.  These folks might be prematurely optimistic about the potentials of VAMs contrary to what 90% of the research in this area would support; these scholars might use methods that over-simplistically approach very complex problems and make sweeping, unwarranted, and often invalid assertions regardless; these folks might have financial or other vested interests in the VAMs being adopted and implemented; or the like.

While we aim to keep this section of the blog as professional and fair, open, and aboveboard as possible, we also simultaneously hope to make such information on this blog more actionable and accessible for our readers.

Accordingly, here is our (still working) list of VAMboozlers:

  • Raj Chetty, an economics professor from Harvard University; John Friedman an assistant professor of public policy at Harvard; and Jonah Rockoff, an associate professor of finance and economics now at Columbia (was at Harvard); all of whom authored a “landmark” study published first in 2011 (in its non-peer-reviewed and not even internally reviewed form) by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and then published again in the American Economic Review in 2014 (in the same form) but this time split into two separate studies (see, for example, here and here).
  • Dan Goldhaber, an economics professor at the University of Washington Bothell, the Director of the Center for Education Data & Research (CEDR), the Director of the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER), and a Vice-President at the American Institutes of Research (AIR) that offers their value-added services to states/districts (e.g., the state of New York); and who despite the best evidence continues to, as per the title of one of his recent articles, “Explor[e] the Potential of Value-Added Performance Measures to Affect the Quality of the Teacher Workforce.”
  • Eric Hanushek, an economist and the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University who repeatedly advises policymakers, in support of VAMs, that allowing low value-added teachers to remain in teaching is outright harming students, “doing damage,” and “dragging down the nation.” Firing them, instead, or at least the bottom 5%, would do this and that for the nation’s economy, etc. are his standard claims.
  • Doug Harris, an associate professor of economics and the Schleider Foundation Chair in Public Education at Tulane University and author of the book, “Value-Added Measures in Education: What Every Educator Needs to Know” which a former doctoral student and I reviewed here (after which he responded here; see also here and here). See also another non-peer reviewed article he recently wrote in Educational Researcher here.
  • Thomas Kane, an economics professor from Harvard University who also directed the $45 million worth of Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) studies for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Kane also continues to write in various venues in support of VAMs.
  • William Sanders, a former (now retired) adjunct economics professor specializing in agricultural statistics from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville, who got “[i]t all started in 1982…Sanders stumbled upon a newspaper article suggesting there’s no proper way to hold teachers accountable based on test scores. He said nonsense. What started as a personal challenge to prove the conventional knowledge wrong quickly turned into a career….” from which he has made millions. While officially retired, he is still active in his advocacy efforts, particularly in support of “his” Education Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS), which is now owned and operated by SAS Instituted Inc. When he originally developed it in his home state, he called it “his” Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS). See also here, here, and here.

2 thoughts on ““VAMboozlers”

  1. Everyone on your list has degrees and/or current university appointments in the field of economics. Doesn’t it raise any red flags in policy land that “the dismal science” is the only one pushing VAM? Do they notice that VAM doesn’t have support from experts in teaching, or educational measurement, or psychology, or cognitive science?
    Also, why not include William Sanders here? The former professor of agriculture must have made some tidy profits from VAMboozling the field of education.

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