Controversial teacher evaluation method is on trial — literally — and the judge is not amused

Reblogged from the Answer Sheet

Here is a report on what happened this week in a New York court where a judge is hearing the case brought by Sheri G. Lederman, a fourth-grade teacher in the Great Neck public school district, against state education officials over their controversial method of evaluating her — and, by extension, other N.Y. teachers.

The method is known as “value-added modeling,” or VAM, and it purports to be able to use student standardized test scores to determine the “value” of a teacher while factoring out every other influence on a student (including, for example, hunger, sickness, and stress). One way it works is by predicting, through a complicated computer model, how students with similar characteristics are supposed to perform on the exams, and teachers are then evaluated on how well their students measure up to the theoretical students…

…The more Ms. Galligan tried to defend the bell curve of growth scores as science, the more the judge pushed back with common sense. It was clear that he did his homework. He understood that the New York State Education Department’s VAM system artificially set the percentage of “ineffective” teachers at 7 percent. That arbitrary decision clearly troubled him. “Doesn’t the bell curve make it subjective? There has to be failures,” he asked.

The defender of the curve said that she did not like the “failure” word.

The judge quipped, “Ineffectives, how about that?” Those in attendance laughed.

Ms. Galligan preferred the term “outlier.” Those who got ineffective growth scores were “the outliers who are not doing a good job,” the attorney said. She seemed oblivious to the fourth-grade teacher who was sitting not 10 feet away from where she stood. Read more>>