The Education Cpmmission of the States will present its James Bryant Conant award to Willism Sanders. Sanders is a pioneer of VAM (also known as value-added measurement or modeling).
VAM is probably the single worst feature of corporate reform, the one that is most likely to demoralize teachers, lead to early retirements, and to the decline in new recruits to teaching. Sanders promotes the idea that teachers can be evaluated by the test scores of their students. He pioneered VAM in Tennessee in the late 1980s and today it is a widely used methodology, even though Sanders has copyrighted his methods; it is proprietary and other researchers are not allowed to understand how it works.
Although Sanders’ team markets his product with grandiose claims, one need only look at Tennessee to see that it is not near the top of NAEP. After 30 years of VAM, what does Tennessee have to show for its reliance on high-stakes testing? Who would call Temnessee today a national model?
Audrey Amrein-Beardsley describes Sanders:
“VAMs were first adopted in education in the late 1980s, when an agricultural statistician/adjunct professor [emphasis added, as an adjunct professor is substantively different than a tenured/tenure-track professor] at the University of Knoxville, Tennessee – William Sanders – thought that educators struggling with student achievement in the state should “simply” use more advanced statistics, similar to those used when modeling genetic and reproductive trends among cattle, to measure growth, hold teachers accountable for that growth, and solve the educational measurement woes facing the state at the time by doing so. It was to be as simple as that….”
Chalkbeat, which covers education issues in Tennessee, recognizes that VAM is very controversial:
“As per the article: “Hailed by many who seek greater accountability in education, [Sanders’s] TVAAS continues to be a topic of robust discussion in the education community in Tennessee and across the nation. It has been the source of numerous federal lawsuits filed by teachers who charge that the evaluation system—which has been tied to teacher pay and tenure—is unfair and doesn’t take into account student socio-economic variables such as growing up in poverty. Sanders maintains that teacher effectiveness dwarfs all other factors as a predictor of student academic growth.”
Amrein-Beardsley is stunned that ECS is giving this honor to a man who tried to turn teacher evaluation into a “science” comparable to producing crops. She wonders whether angry teachers might picket the ECS meeting in Denver in late June.