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Audrey Amrein-Beardsley testified on behalf of the plaintiffs (the teachers) in the court case against New Mexico’s teacher evaluation system. She is an expert on teacher evaluation and has had the benefit of having been a teacher. Her blog “Vamboozled” regularly criticizes the misuse of test-based evaluations programs (like VAM, value-added measurement) that use the rise or fall of student test scores as their measure of teacher effectiveness.
In this post, she gives an overview of day three of the trial. The main “expert witness” for the state, testifying in favor of VAM, was Tom Kane of Harvard. He previously directed the Gates Foundations MET (Measures of Teacher Effectiveness) study, which promoted the use of VAM.
It is noteworthy that neither Beardsley nor Kane was able to analyze New Mexico’s data because the state did not release them or make them available, even to its own “expert witness.”
Kane admitted that he
had not examined any of New Mexico’s actual data. This was surprising in the sense that he was actually retained by the state, and his lawyers could have much more likely, and literally, handed him the state’s dataset as their “expert witness,” likely regardless of the procedures and security measures (but perhaps not the timeline) I mentioned prior. Also surprising was that Kane had clearly not examined any of the exhibits submitted for this case, by both the plaintiffs and the defense, either. He was essentially in attendance, on behalf of the state, to “only speak to [teacher] evaluations in general.” As per an article this morning in The Albuquerque Journal, as an “expert witness” he “stressed that numerous studies show that teachers make a big impact on student success,” expressly contradicting the American Statistical Association (ASA), while referencing studies of primarily his econ-friends (e.g. Raj Chetty, Eric Hanushek, Doug Staiger) and those of his own (e.g, as per his Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) studies), although this latter (unambiguous) assertion was not highlighted in this article. For more information in general, though, see the articles this morning in both The Albuquerque Journal and The Santa Fe New Mexican.
Then the state called the superintendent of the Roswell Independent School District to testify in favor of the state’s evaluation model. He said that the new system was an improvement over the old one. He also testified that he would not use the ratings to fire teachers, because he already had a teacher shortage. He told the local newspaper that:
“I am down teachers. I don’t need teachers, number 1, quitting over this and, number 2, I am not going to be firing teachers over this.” His district of about 600 teachers currently has approximately 30 open teaching positions, “an unusually high number;” hence, “he would rather work with his current staff than bring on substitutes” in compliance. So while he testified on behalf of the state, he also testified he was not necessarily in favor of the consequences being attached to the state’s teacher evaluation output, even if as currently being positioned by the defense as “low-stakes.”