Bad assumptions by Gates researchers on VAM

Valerie Strauss has another excellent column at The Answer Sheet:

(It was written by Matthew Di Carlo, senior fellow at the non-profit Albert Shanker Institute, located in Washington, D.C. It originally appeared on the institute’s blog.)


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  1. There’s the old joke about Microsoft:

    The day Microsoft makes a product that doesn’t suck is when they make a vacuum cleaner.


  2. I agree with the commenter/poster to Ms Strauss’s guest writer who said that the term “value-added suffers mightily from its origins in manufacturing.”
    Indeed, NCLB tries to shift the evaluation of whether or not America’s children in the nation’s public schools are learning to whether or not SCHOOLS as entities like corporations are “profitable”–is the entity, not the children/students, making Annual Yearly Progress and if it isn’t, there is almost nothing required of school admin to find out what is impeding the learning as reflected in the standardized test scores (or any other measures) and correct those things. Instead, a series of scary sounding labels are applied while the problems continue with very, very little required of anyone to address and fix the problems, other than some not very well known or equally available tutoring or a “choice” to move out of that school until most of the children in it ARE behind and the place is “ripe” for the picking by a private “education” management corporation, usually for profit.
    This to me is a scheme that is akin to establishing a threshold for bankruptcy where the entire entity–equipment, employees and all can be sold at auction or dissolved altogether.
    In other words, the corporate paradigm cannot be applied to learning and tell us what is working in our public schools and what isn’t and a study based on an element of that paradigm, such as “value-added” is, to me, just a wild goose chase.
    On the other hand, I think it would be very useful to study the preparation of America’s teachers and see if there’s a little something we could improve there. If Gates wants to do something, that might help. Otherwise, he is simply meddling in and making worse the situation–dabbling and playing with people’s lives as though they were just some little action figures that he can set up the way he wants in some fantasy land.


  3. in, not is, some fantasy land. Excuse me.


  4. Ms. Livingston thinks Gates is just “meddling” and that there is possibly “a little” something that can be done about teachers’ ed.

    How sad. But she captures the big crime of the status quo-ists. They don’t put forward improvement ideas or push any change from within. Anything moving is suspect. And they grossly under-rate what schools of ed have done to teachers, who are usually not seriously evaluated and are poor handlers of children of poverty and parents who do not do their jobs.

    Again, teacher quality is the one variable that we can do something about, soon. Develop the ones worth developing. Weed out those who lack the skills or commitment. It is simply criminal to knowingly continuing exposing our children to those who are ineffective. This would never happen in a country that was serious about education.

    Stop the unionists from bringing any change to a halt. They will take forever to do anything different to help our children. We must get it done on their own.


    • Jawarlal has pretty much summed up the philosophy of the current war on teachers.
      Of course, his viewpoint has no connection with that stubborn thing, real life experience. I bet he has spent no more than an hour in any inner-city school, nor has he actually taken any education classes. Yet he can tell the rest of us what to do – we who have been actually in the trenches, trying to teach inner-city youth, and who have attended numerous education classes (some good, some not, just like everything else).
      What, precisely, are the horrible things that education classes “do” to us teachers, deficient or otherwise?
      Does JB think that the best way to develop good teachers is through Teach for America and the like? Good grief – almost NONE of those instant teachers stick around for more than three years, AND they are no more effective than long-term substitutes.
      One thing we could do something about quickly is testing for, and eliminating, lead poisoning. We could also get better curricula, developed by expert teachers, not by corporations whose only concern is looking good and making lots of money.
      Gates never went to public school; he has no clue, though he does have lots of money, and therefore has unlimited access to the media. His ‘small schools’ were a total flop. Charter schools are a flop. Teach for America is a flop. Instant principals and instant curriculum experts – all flops.
      Yes, there are teachers who shouldn’t be in the classroom. Always have been. It’s not hard for administrators to ease them out of the classroom – if the administrators were doing their jobs.


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