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Reader: Advice to the Economists Who Love VAM

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Author: dianeravitch

Recently the website Five Thirty Eight published a post declaring that VAM works. Only economists who never set foot in a school since their own high school days could reach this conclusion.

This reader disagrees with the economists:

This was my comment, as a lowly parent & taxpayer, at the 538 article comment thread:

As a taxpayer and parent I’d like to know what this article has to do with economics. I can find nothing in the article, nor in the comments thread, which speaks to (much less ‘proves’) that VAM shows any results which save the taxpayer money. As a member of a community I am well aware of the time our teachers have been spending for the last two years on the voluminous paperwork required to implement VAM. Although they seem to be doing it without extra pay, this is worrisome. These people already spend too many hours on a medium-salary job, and with the extra stress, that will push more of them out of a difficult profession.

What’s worse at least in my area (NJ), VAM seems to be a 2-pronged affair:

there’s the SLO/ Danielson or Marzano business that has them adding short autumn and EOY assessments in every subject to measure progress — which sounds like debunked & easily-gamed MBO junk I had to do in the ’80’s private sector–

and then we have the students’ PARCC scores which will soon become a weighted part of the teachers’ annual evaluation.

The SLO business adds a couple of hrs’ testing in every subject (so 10 hrs of class time per year)– minimal yet to my mind from experience a waste of time.

The latter– PARCC CCSS-aligned tests, taken on computer, disrupted the schedule horribly this year. Just to administer them required weeks during March & May to shuffle students by group in & out of gym/ library/ computer lab, where available laptops were corralled. That meant those areas were lost to normal physed, library research projects, curriculum-associated computer-lab work, for 3 – 4 wks of the 12-wk spring semester.

Much class time was spent teaching primary students how to keyboard, drag-&-drop, scroll, not hit buttons that would freeze the screen. And much more class time was spent drillimg kids on the PARCC Q&A format.

Although the PARCC tests are administered solely to collect data on school & teacher performance (meaning by the way older students recognize they have no ‘skin in the game’)– because they are or soon will be hi-stakes for school & staff, much time & attention is paid.

Did I mention my district has long been one of the highest-performing in the state? Here in NJ rich districts like ours send a large chunk of our RE taxes to poor districts; we pay 96% of the school budget ourselves. And now we must sacrifice many weeks of our precious, highly-paid-for curriculum-learning time to… VAM???

OK now I’m mad. I can read right on this board that there’s absolutely no proof that any of this supposedly economically-driven activity has anything to do with lowering my property taxes. In fact, what I can glean by reading the national news, its primary effect to date has been to drive veteran teachers into early retirement, to be replaced by substitutes, TFAs, & newbies (which is what I see is happening in Newark, where much of my RE taxes go, which is why mine are cripplingly high; as far as I can determine costs are higher than ever in fact Zuckerberg’s $100million went to consultants and state administrators).

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