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Lead from the Start: shhhh the social scientists are talking

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

shhhh the social scientists are talking

In following Eduwonkette's series of exchanges concerning Value-added measures I found a meeting of a secret society. I found it through the New Teacher Center bloggers Sara Goldrick-Rab and Liam Goldrick-Rab. The value-added club of social engineers scientists National Conference on Value-Added Modeling (VAM) is taking place right now in Wisconsin. Have you ever wondered what the assumptions of value-added measures were? Read Raudenbush, one of the statistical godfathers of value-added measurements of teachers. Want to know what they have in store for us once they get value-added measures into the policy pipe? I was surprised to find what Douglas Harris said in his paper description:
Based on this framework and the most recent value-added-based research, I find that neither the traditional credentials strategy nor a simple value-added-based accountability strategy is likely to best address the teacher quality problem. Instead, as in the private sector, a valid policy approach requires using multiple strategies and measures that provide signals of teacher effectiveness and formative and summative assessments that facilitate and encourage improvement. Specifically, the evidence suggests that teachers be rewarded not for their graduate degrees, but for a combination of experience, certain types of professional development, and teacher and school performance. More generally, improving the quality of teachers will require a comprehensive strategy that few current or proposed policies provide.
As with most external fixes for "the teacher quality problem?" I am extremely skeptical but, slightly less so, for the moment. I don't really think it is the researchers who should be held accountable if this model of thinking about teacher effectiveness becomes policy so much as the responsibility of the policy makers. I am most concerned with the level of complexity that policy makers are interested in grappling with in order to "fix" us. Remember this is the group that decided percent passing was good enough to decide accreditation. As in, 70% is good enough. I think it may have been precisely this 70% thinking that lead us down the path to "70% ??? that wouldn't even be a C on a report card. The only thing good enough for our kids is 100%. All schools must get an A in order to pass AYP." Not very complex logic when you consider the variety of schools, students, and teachers in our system.


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