Home > Uncategorized > VAM Flaws Glossed Over in the MSM

VAM Flaws Glossed Over in the MSM

January 10, 2013

The Gates Foundation recently came out with a report on teacher evaluation that was widely reported in the mainstream media (MSM). Here are the headlines from each report:

Gates Foundation study: We’ve figured out what makes a good teacher

The Washington Post

Good Teachers Linked to Test Success

The Wall Street Journal

Gates Foundation Report On Measuring Teacher Effectiveness Suggests Three-Pronged Approach

Huffington Post

All three are reading the same report and coming to different conclusions: The Washington Post is telling its readers that there IS at long last a way to identify good teachers. They conclude that:

The most reliable way to evaluate teachers is to use a three-pronged approach built on student test scores, classroom observations by multiple reviewers and teacher evaluations from students themselves, the foundation found.

And their headline echoes the Gates Foundations’ claim that “The large-scale study is the first to demonstrate that it is possible to identify great teaching”.

The Wall Street Journal headline (no surprise) emphasizes only one prong of the three: the student test scores. It’s reporter quoted a professor from University of Arkansas who criticized the report for under-emphasizing test results and the report discusses the merits of using evaluations to “…pay and fire teachers based on performance.

The Huffington Post’s headline has the most fidelity to te report’s findings. It matter-of-factly describes Value Added Measure as follows:

Value-added analysis calculates a teacher’s effectiveness in improving student performance on standardized tests — based on past test scores. The forecasted figure is compared to the student’s actual scores, and the difference is considered the “value added,” or subtracted, by the teachers.

None of the reports provides any detailed questioning of VAM as a means of measure and none quotes any (of the many) education writers and researchers who question the efficacy of VAM. That’s left to Diane Ravitch, who provided a link to Bruce Baker’s blog on School Finance. Baker’s title is a little different than those of the MSM:

Gates Still Doesn’t Get It! Trapped in a World of Circular Reasoning & Flawed Frameworks

Unfortunately a headline referencing “…circular reasoning and flawed frameworks” doesn’t grab the reader by the lapels the same way as a headline referencing an easy way to identify “good teachers”…

At some point I hope the mainstream media will begin questioning the validity of VAM… but I’m sure there is someone out there in the blogosphere who saw the crash coming and wished someone would write a CDS’s in 2007.



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