Friday, February 24, 2012

NY's VAM is a Club that Gates Disapproves of.

Developing a systematic way to help teachers get better is the most powerful idea in education today. The surest way to weaken it is to twist it into a capricious exercise in public shaming. - Bill Gates in the NYT
It's even worse when the system in use is riddled with errors, has random fluctuations in scores that can make or break a teacher's reputation, doesn't have the support of those being evaluated and makes tenuous  associations between scores and those responsible for them.

How the scores a student receives on a meaningless test can be much of an indication of the worth of a teacher who didn't take the test, didn't have that kid in class except for part of the current year, and rarely has much control over that student and his personal and academic life, is a mystery to me and a source of much bemusement.

My state doesn't have VAM yet but it does publish the NECAP scores and tries to shame schools into improvement. Our difficulty up here lies in the fact that these tests are taken in the 7th and 8th grade and then in the beginning of the 11th grade. That's it. This year's juniors took the test a month into the year and I had never had them in class before - what kind of measurement system is that and who is being measured, really?

It's interesting that the public sees numbers such as "64% of the students are not proficient" and still votes for our budgets every year at town meeting.

A quick note for all of you big city folk used to 3.5 million-student city-wide districts and mayoral control: Vermont districts are generally a few small towns banding together with schools ranging in size from 200 to 2000 students, heavily skewed towards the small end. Each of these districts has a school board for the district and one for each elementary school. At Town Meeting Day (yes, we still do that), each town votes on it's school budget and town budget, elects school board members, and decides other weighty issues including whether to pay $460 to the ambulance service.

No comments:

Post a Comment