Teacher Evaluations

Stuart S. Yen: VAM is Neither Valid Nor Reliable

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Stuart S. Yen, a professor at the University of Minnesota, contends in this article in the TC Record that value-added-modeling is neither valid nor reliable.


He reviews the existing literature and notes that VAM is now used to hire, fire, promote, and reward teachers, all high-stakes decisions.


He writes:


In principle, value-added modeling (VAM) might be justified if it can be shown to be a more reliable indicator of teacher quality than existing indicators for existing low-stakes decisions that are already being made, such as the award of small merit bonuses. However, a growing number of researchers now advocate the use of VAM to identify and replace large numbers of low-performing teachers. There is a need to evaluate these proposals because the active termination of large numbers of teachers based on VAM requires a much higher standard of reliability and validity. Furthermore, these proposals must be evaluated to determine if they are cost-effective compared to alternative proposals for raising student achievement. While VAM might be justified as a replacement for existing indicators (for existing decisions regarding merit compensation), it might not meet the higher standard of reliability and validity required for large-scale teacher termination, and it may not be the most cost-effective approach for raising student achievement. If society devotes its resources to approaches that are not cost-effective, the increase in achievement per dollar of resources expended will remain low, inhibiting reduction of the achievement gap….


This article reviews literature regarding the reliability and validity of VAM, then focuses on an evaluation of a proposal by Chetty, Friedman, and Rockoff to use VAM to identify and replace the lowest-performing 5% of teachers with average teachers. Chetty et al. estimate that implementation of this proposal would increase the achievement and lifetime earnings of students. The results appear likely to accelerate the adoption of VAM by school districts nationwide. The objective of the current article is to evaluate the Chetty et al. proposal and the strategy of raising student achievement by using VAM to identify and replace low-performing teachers.


Method: This article analyzes the assumptions of the Chetty et al. study and the assumptions of similar VAM-based proposals to raise student achievement. This analysis establishes a basis for evaluating the Chetty et al. proposal and, in general, a basis for evaluating all VAM-based policies to raise achievement.


Conclusion: VAM is not reliable or valid, and VAM-based polices are not cost-effective for the purpose of raising student achievement and increasing earnings by terminating large numbers of low-performing teachers.


This is a video in which Yen discusses his findings about VAM.





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