Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I Was Mistaken (But They're Still Snake Oil Salesmen!)

Yesterday's post featured some news about John King wanting to include student attendance in the standardized assessment portion of the (still!) upcoming APPR agreement.

(Quick recap for the newcomers: Between 20 and 40 percent of your (our) APPR score will be based on how well our students do on state tests. But it isn't as easy as to determine which students pass and which ones fail. The state has purchased a formula that determines how much actual value we have added to that student, as measured on standardized tests (I swear, I can never write or say that last part with a straight face). Using this formula, the state will set a target goal for each of our students, then we'll be measured in accordance with how many of our students met that goal. Got it?)

Now yesterday's rant was based on a tweet from a reporter who seemed to attend a meeting at NYSED. During that meeting, NYSED proposed that it include student attendance in the formula that determines how much value we will be expected to add to our students. That reporter published his full story today and, as it turns out, I wasn't quite right.

You see the state does, in fact, want to include student attendance in the VA formula for standardized exams, but only equal to the amount of time that student actually attended school. Says Geoff Decker:
Students with low attendance will also be counted, but only by the same rate at which they attended school, according to the proposal
So you see, it's not all that bad! They have developed a formula that can measure exactly how much value we have added to a student with low attendance during the several days that he or she had actually been able to attend school! I feel much better now, how about you?

Hey, wait a minute; how come they have developed a formula for measuring exactly much value we have added to a student with low attendance during the several days that he or she had actually been able to come    to school, but they haven't figured out a way to design a proper test?  Or  a way to get that kid to school in the first place!?

There are three kinds of people in this education world of ours. There are those who know nothing about value-added at all, those who feel that VA Algorithms can actually measure how much a student can learn with a -one- given teacher and those of us who, after seeing common sense approaches be abandoned in favor of junk like this, feel that the very idea of an algorithm measuring student achievement is more akin to Voodo than it is science or to education. While the idea of VAM is an interesting concept,  those of us the latter category feel that current crop of people who are presenting this as a way to improve teaching and (eventually) learning are nothing more than snake oil salesmen selling a cure-all that just isn't there.  So when they start talking about including students who may not be in school being included into the formula, I get a little suspicious.

In fact, proposing to use a formula that can account for only those days along term absentee was able to make it school in itself is probably a doenut.


  1. Great post.

    I am resigned to a very bad few years until the legal challenges pull this system down to hell where it belongs.

    I think that will happen after it becomes quite obvious it is unworkable.

  2. Since I view it all as a conspiracy to privatize I think the system not working is exactly what they want. And the legal story? Judges are chosen by the very people privatizing. So I see only one force with even the remote capability of fighting this. The union --- oh, sorry, I forgot.

  3. Thanks for the Post. VAM is a junk sham. Here is a good piece by Bruce Baker on some of the legal implications of what is coming:


  4. It's incredible; I tried to post on Gotham Schools, and now you have to register with them to post! So much for being able to say what is really going on in the morally bankrupt Bloomberg school system without fear of repercussion...

    1. Break it down, anon! Leave your comment here and I'll post it to GS under my name for you