Dr. Audrey Beardsley at Arizona State University is considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the VAM (Value Added Model) process.  She has been watching the on-going saga in Alabama about the RAISE/PREP bill.  She commented about this bill on her national blog on Jan. 14.  She was not impressed.

She has looked at the most recent version of the bill, now known as PREP, and her comments are not kind to say the least.

Here is some of what he has to say:

Student growth is still one of the bill’s key components, with growth set at a 25% weight, and this is still written into this bill regardless of the fact that the new federal Elementary Student Success Act (ESSA) no longer requires teacher-level growth as a component of states’ educational reform legislation. In other words, states are no longer required to do this, but apparently Senator Marsh still wants to move forward in this regard, regardless (and regardless of the research evidence).

Nothing is written about the ongoing research and evaluation of the state system, that is absolutely necessary in order to ensure the system is working as intended, especially before any types of consequential decisions are to be made (e.g., school bonuses, teachers’ denial of tenure, teacher termination, teacher termination due to a reduction in force).

To measure growth the state is set to use student performance data on state tests, as well as data derived via the ACT Aspire examination, American College Test (ACT), and “any number of measures from the department developed list of preapproved options for governing boards to utilize to measure student achievement growth.” As mentioned in my prior post about Alabama, this is precisely what has gotten the whole state of New Mexico wrapped up in, and quasi-losing their ongoing lawsuit. While providing districts with menus of off-the-shelf and other assessment options might make sense to policymakers, any self respecting researcher should know why this is entirely inappropriate.

Clearly the state does not understand the current issues with value-added/growth levels of reliability, or consistency, or lack thereof, that are altogether preventing such consistent classifications of teachers over time. Inversely, what is consistently evident across all growth models is that estimates are very inconsistent from year to year, which will likely thwart what the bill has written into it here, as such a theoretically simple proposition.

Unless the state plans on “artificially conflating” scores, by manufacturing and forcing the oft-unreliable growth data to fit or correlate with teachers’ observational data (two observations per year are to be required), and/or survey data (student surveys are to be used for teachers of students in grades three and above), such consistency is thus far impossible unless deliberately manipulated.

For those of you who have access to educational leaders there, do send them this post too, so they might be a bit more proactive, and appropriately more careful and cautious, before going down what continues to demonstrate itself as a poor educational policy path.

Poor educational policy path.  Does not understand the current issues with value-added/growth levels of reliability, or consistency.

It doesn’t get any plainer than this.  Call it RAISE, PREP or the FOUTH OF JULY, this bill is terrible and does nothing to advance the education of Alabama’s children.