Article on the “Heroic” Assumptions Surrounding VAMs Published (and Currently Available) in TCR

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My former doctoral student and I wrote a paper about the “heroic” assumptions surrounding VAMs. We titled it “Truths” Devoid of Empirical Proof: Underlying Assumptions Surrounding Value-Added Models in Teacher Evaluation” and it was just published in the esteemed Teachers College Record (TCR). It is also open and accessible for one week, for free, here. I have also pasted the abstract below for more information.


Despite the overwhelming and research-based concerns regarding value-added models (VAMs), VAM advocates, policymakers, and supporters continue to hold strong to VAMs’ purported, yet still largely theoretical strengths and potentials. Those advancing VAMs have, more or less, adopted and promoted a set of agreed-upon, albeit “heroic” set of assumptions, without independent, peer-reviewed research in support. These “heroic” assumptions transcend promotional, policy, media, and research-based pieces, but they have never been fully investigated, explicated, or made explicit as a set or whole. These assumptions, though often violated, are often ignored in order to promote VAM adoption and use, and also to sell for-profits’ and sometimes non-profits’ VAM-based systems to states and districts. The purpose of this study was to make obvious the assumptions that have been made within the VAM narrative and that, accordingly, have often been accepted without challenge. Ultimately, sources for this study included 470 distinctly different written pieces, from both traditional and non-traditional sources. The results of this analysis suggest that the preponderance of sources propagating unfounded assertions are fostering a sort of VAM echo chamber that seems impenetrable by even the most rigorous and trustworthy empirical evidence.

1 thought on “Article on the “Heroic” Assumptions Surrounding VAMs Published (and Currently Available) in TCR

  1. Wonderful, brilliant article in the TC record deconstructing the VAM SCAM. Analytical philosophy is alive and well after all.

    Hope you and some colleagues will make the next stop SLOs where the trails are not quite as complicated, the empirical support is thin as moth wings ( an expression from my niece who is a writer), and the distorted views of teaching “effectiveness” are at least as terrible as for VAM, along with the consequences. WestEd is supposed to be monitoring the statewide requirement for SLOs in Maryland, all subjects, all grades

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