Following last year’s Every Student Succeeds Act, an update of 2002’s No Child Left Behind Act, which imposed rigorous standards and accountability measures for struggling schools, state schools now have the freedom to do away with some federal oversight measures that were less than popular with teachers and parents.
At the top of the list may be a system of teacher evaluations called Value Added Measurement, or VAM, which rates teachers based on standardized testing performance. Long assailed by some educators as inaccurate—due to a relatively small sample size of test scores that can produce wild swings in teacher evaluations on an annual basis—VAM may be on the chopping block this year in some states.
Last year’s law removed the federal requirement that states impose VAM on their teachers, leaving it up to states to make that decision. Not everyone is a fan of that idea, since leaving school accountability to the states may be risky.
But Parents Across America, a national grassroots advocacy group, called on state lawmakers late last week to “overhaul teacher evaluation systems immediately.”
Echoing a common complaint among teachers and unions, they say VAM forces some educators to “teach to the test” and narrows the curriculum. They also say the results don’t justify the time and money spent on them.
In large-scale scientific studies, such as tests of new drugs, periodic review ensures that experimental treatments are not harming participants. If it becomes evident that a new treatment is doing more harm than good, the study immediately ends. In the case of VAM, the evidence is clear. State leaders should act boldly, and stop the damage now.
The idea caught on with at least one advocacy group in North Carolina, with Mecklenburg ACTS, a grassroots group in Charlotte, piling on in criticizing VAM.
From Mecklenburg ACTS:
North Carolina is a prime example. Requiring VAM ratings for all North Carolina teachers has helped spark an enormous expansion in state testing. This includes the North Carolina Final Exams and the early-grade Reading 3D assessments.
Thanks to the newly passed Every Student Succeeds Act, states now have the power to eliminate VAM from their teacher evaluation systems. This would allow them to dramatically reduce the number of state-required standardized tests.
Reducing state testing would make it possible for schools, teachers and students to put more time, money and energy into teaching and learning. It would also be an important step in making North Carolina a more teacher-friendly state.
We will continue to follow this important debate.