Day: August 12, 2015

When a perfect test score hurts a teacher


The absurdity (and that is putting it mildly) of using computerized interpretations of student test scores to evaluate teachers is on display once again, this time in New York, where a suit brought by a veteran, highly regarded teacher against New York state education officials was scheduled to be argued this week before the state’s Supreme Court in Albany.

Sheri G. Lederman, a fourth-grade teacher in the Great Neck public school district, is a highly regarded educator whose students consistently score higher than the statewide average on standardized math and English Language Arts tests. Yet, she has run afoul of the value-added, or VAM, model, a concept that has been repeatedly trashed by educational experts but which New York persists in using to help evaluate its teachers.

The Washington Post story, linked at the end of this post, presents a good account of the lawsuit and the problems with VAM. The article is long, so here are some highlights (or lowlights):

# Lederman’s record is “flawless,” according to her superintendent. But a complex computer program used to measure and adjust student test scores for various factors determined that she was “ineffective” in promoting student growth. Her attorney called the process “a statistical black box which no rational fact finder could see as fair, accurate or reliable.”

# A teacher in Florida, which also uses VAM, saw his evaluation hurt because a computer ruled that his four top-scoring students – to demonstrate “progress” – had to score higher than the maximum number of points that could be earned on an exam. One of his sixth-grade students, for example, had a computer-predicted score of 286.34 on the exam. In reality, the highest score the student could earn on that particular test was 283. She scored a 283, a perfect score but not good enough for the VAM computer, which counted it as a negative toward the teacher’s evaluation. (Sounds like something from the “Twilight Zone.”)

# Because high-stakes tests were administered only in math and English language arts, an art teacher in New York City was evaluated on his students’ math test scores and saw his evaluation drop from “effective” to “developing.”

And, don’t forget, taxpayers are spending millions of dollars on this nonsense, dollars that should be spent directly on the classroom.