Controversy in the States


The Gates Foundation, which is backing  schools reform in the States and carries considerable clout, recently released a study called “Measures of Effective Teaching” (MET) that supports the use of Value Added Assessment  and Value Added Measurement. Remember that these measures are used to evaluate teacher performance and are integral to education reforms in the States. The Foundation  hired an impressive list of economists at institutions  to afford  authority to its work. Among its key findings was : “Teachers with high value-added on state tests tend to promote deeper conceptual understanding as well.” Ah, said the proponents of measuring teacher quality by the rise and fall of student test scores, this study vindicates these methods and effectively counters all those cautionary warnings. But now comes a re-analysis of the Gates study by University of California-Berkeley economist Jesse Rothstein  which  claims  that the MET study  managed to reach the wrong conclusions and that its data demonstrate that VAA misidentifies which teachers are more effective and is not much better than a coin toss. Even the claim that teachers whose students get high scores on state tests will also get high scores on tests of “deeper conceptual understanding” is flawed, writes Rothstein. The correlation between the two tests was actually modest: About 29 percent of the teachers in the bottom quintile on the basic skills tests were rated above average on the tests of reasoning and critical thinking; these are the teachers who would be fired if the Gates Foundation had its way. “Interpreted correctly,” writes Rothstein, the analyses in the Gates’ report “undermine rather than validate value-added-based approaches to teacher evaluation.” Jesse Rothstein has studied VAA in the past, but he also  served as senior economist for President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors and chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor. His message is that academics are struggling to find a full proof, reliable  method to measure   just how much value teachers add and that consensus is hard to find. Unions are generally against such measures saying that they are unreliable, unfair and serve to demonise teachers.

Note: The UK  Government has dropped  the Contextual Value Added   measure from League tables. Research conducted by Allen and Burgess in 2010, Evaluating the Provision of School Performance Information for School Choice found that CVA is a less strong predictor of how well a child will do academically than raw attainment measures. The Government decided to end the use of contextual value added because the measure is difficult for the public to understand and because it  feels it is  ‘wrong to support a measure which entrenches low expectations of certain groups of pupils.’


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