For years many policymakers in education have been making decisions about how to “fix” public schools and assess the “value” a teacher brings to student achievement that don’t really do either. The idea has been to apply principles from the business world — where competition is the key — to a civic institution, the public education system. It hasn’t worked in the way supporters had hoped. There have been serious consequences for students, schools and teachers, and in this post, one educator talks about the real effects on real teachers as a result of some of these policies.
The author is Justin Parmenter, an educator for 22 years who is teaching seventh-grade language arts at Waddell Language Academy in Charlotte, N.C. He is also a fellow with Hope Street Group’s North Carolina Teacher Voice Network. He started his career as a Peace Corps volunteer in Albania, taught in Istanbul and on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Arizona. He was a finalist for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Teacher of the Year in 2016, and you can find him on Twitter here: @JustinParmenter
In this post, Parmenter refers to value-added measurement, or VAM, which has been a popular method of evaluating teachers since the start of the Obama administration. VAM purports to be able to take student standardized test scores and measure the “value” a teacher adds to student learning through complicated formulas that can supposedly factor out all of the other influences and emerge with a valid assessment of how effective a particular teacher has been. Statisticians repeatedly warned against using VAM in schools for high-stakes job and educational decisions, because the results were unreliable and invalid for such purposes, but policymakers used it anyway.