Thursday, January 30, 2014

CCSD Teacher Buy-Ins to Value-Added Measures Need Critical Thinking

Two Charleston County fifth-grade teachers heading up a teacher "workgroup" of introducing the BRIDGE program district wide had their say earlier this week on the paper's op-ed page. Here's part of what Samantha Blake and Erin Cymrot had to say:
"Perhaps the most controversial component of BRIDGE is the use of value-added measures (VAM).
Many media outlets contend that VAM is unreliable and demand that it be removed.
Currently when school report cards are published, the public gets a limited view of a school's achievement. This is based largely on the percentage of how many students passed or failed a standardized test.
What's missing is that, by evaluating achievement as pass or fail, we are not recognizing the hard work of students who make growth. VAM focuses on measuring student growth from one year to the next, no matter where that student starts academically at the beginning of the year.
The unique component of VAM is that it also accounts for factors affecting student learning, such as attendance, poverty or learning disabilities."

If VAM accounts for "factors affecting student learning" such as poverty, it's unlikely to expect more learning by poor students; rather it will expect less.

FYI: this idea used to be called the "soft racism of lowered expectations."

Despite these teachers' saying that "media outlets" are the negative influences on VAM, the really negative comments have come from academics and districts that have actually implemented the program. The idea of VAM comes from economic production. Students are not mindless products.

CCSD comes late to the party, late enough that results have already shown the uselessness of this fix-all.

1 comment:

Jim Isle said...

I didn't particularly care for George W. Bush, but the speech writer that gave him that quote about the "soft racism of low expectations" really nailed it.

Kids are pretty resourceful and perceptive. More often than not, they will live up (or down) to the expectations they see around them. How many times do we hear this statement? "Just tell me what I need to do in order to pass."

As long as the minimum targets are different for one class of student vs another, we will continue to endorse institutional racism, sanctioned from the superintendent on down the line. The same high expectations should be required of all and the district should be prepared to provide an equitable distribution of its resources to make the same high goals accessible to all, regardless of any generalized assumptions (profile?) about a student's race, home life or economic status.

The way it is now, "disadvantaged" students are being given a worthless pass to a substandard education. Student performance is rated using a double standard. As a result administrators are given extended contracts, raises and job security. In the mean time, teachers are left either to fight for limited jobs in already high performance schools or to support a system that measures success using a double standard.

What lessons are we teaching here?