OPINION: Teachers Say VAM Evaluations Are Flawed

May 06, 2014 No Comments by

Teachers Say VAM Evaluations are Flawed

Marc Yacht, MD, MPH

Many of Florida’s public school teachers see little value in the value-added-model (VAM) teacher evaluation process that’s being used this year. Also labeled “value added analysis” or “value added assessment,” the evaluation tool is tied to student testing results. VAM assesses how one student’s scores compare to others and tracks how each student is performing yearly.

VAM tries to determine what a particular teacher contributes to a tested student’s progress. This hair-splitting design evolved from a think tank in 1971. It wasn’t a good idea then and it’s a terrible tool now.

As with most tainted tools, this kind of evaluation does not take into account a student’s home environment, intelligence, family income, natural abilities, or parental involvement. It also ignores school resources such as clubs, tutoring, and after-school activities.

It targets the teacher and that is wrong. Teachers are best viewed as guides. They cannot be held fully responsible for failure or lack of progress. Critics of VAM contend that student success or failure depends on a variety of factors, many of them complex. VAM, they say, is too simplistic. It can hurt a good teacher’s career and it has no bearing on a student’s progress.

One teacher called it “Kafka-teach.” She complained that her evaluation was based on students she had never taught. She was a new first-grade teacher and somehow found herself responsible for 4th and 5th graders she had never seen.

Another Florida teacher said VAM is a farce and it has no bearing on her classroom teaching skills. She claimed her scores did not relate to students she had taught. Is something missing here? How can any teacher be held accountable for students they have not taught?

One teacher questioned why temporary teachers would be VAM evaluated when their time in the classroom was limited. She called the process absurd.

Teachers are worried about VAM. The scores can affect their careers. Most teachers need their paycheck and are reluctant to criticize the new tool. But many other teachers and unions are throwing caution to the wind over this testing debacle and speaking out.

It appears that VAM got BAMED! Education leaders who have the responsibility to nurture and retain teachers can do better than this.

Dr. Marc Yacht, MD is a semi-retired physician living in Hudson, Florida. This column courtesy of Context Florida

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