Saturday, November 8, 2014
We are Statistics Based on Faulty Assumptions
The funny thing about the "science" of VAM is that you can be teacher of the year one year and the next thing you know, you've fallen short of highly effective. You might have students test scores that soar far above state averages and, yet, your VAM may say you're ineffective, in the same league with Dr. Lederman of Great Neck. Or, seemingly worse yet, as teacher of the year in Pasadena, you may be subject of a suit to strip all California teachers of the due-process rights of tenure.
The funny thing (and it's really not so funny) is that you can be the most caring and beloved teacher in the building, but if you're the kind who helps students face enormous obstacles in their personal lives, the kinds of problems that overshadow studying for a test on polynomials or the Mauryan empire, you may take the hit. The crises of youth don't figure into any calculations. They are discounted. Students don't need a sympathetic ear, so much as they just need grit and test drill!
I took statistics in graduate school with equanimity. We worked part time with computers and formulas of multiple-regression analysis. I didn't view it as the best way to understand human history though. The "science" had severe flaws and only the veneer of objectivity. Since then I have seen some of the worst educational damage created in the name of statistics. The integrity of education took a dive as schools promoted credit recovery and whatever else it took to prop up their statistics and survive Mayor Bloomberg. The statistics in Rheeland, D.C., miraculously skyrocketed in some schools. Smiles, handshakes and merit pay were exchanged. But a seeming scandal was just on the horizon. VAM promises to cause even more harm to the profession. We will all become statistics--and, worse yet, statistics based on faulty assumptions.