New Research Uncovers Fresh Trouble for VAM Evaluations

As more and more schools implement various forms of Value-Added method (VAM) evaluation systems, we are learning some disturbing things about how reliable these methods are.

Education Week's Stephan Sawchuk, in "'Value-Added' Measures at Secondary Level Questioned," explains that value-added statistical modeling was once limited to analyzing large sets of data. These statistical models projected students' test score growth, based on their past performance, and thus estimated a growth target. But, now 30 states require teacher evaluations to use student performance, and that has expanded use of algorithms for high-stakes purposes. Value-added estimates are now being applied to secondary schools, even though the vast majority of research on their use has been limited to elementary schools.

Sawchuk reports on two major studies that should slow this rush to evaluate all teachers with experimental models. This month, Douglas Harris will be presenting "Bias of Public Sector Worker Performance Monitoring." It is based on a six years of Florida middle school data on 1.3 million math students.

Harris divides classes into three types, remedial, midlevel, and advanced. After controlling for tracking, he finds that between 30 to 70% of teachers would be placed in the wrong category by normative value-added models. Moreover, Harris discovers that teachers who taught more remedial classes tended to have lower value-added scores than teachers who taught mainly higher-level classes. "That phenomenon was not due to the best teachers' disproportionately teaching the more-rigorous classes, as is often asserted. Instead, the paper shows, even those teachers who taught courses at more than one level of rigor did better when their performance teaching the upper-level classes was compared against that from the lower-level classes."

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Charters and their supporters failing our kids

ODE has finally released the full school report card, though only in spreadsheet format, and it comes with a warning

ODE will not publish PDFs of the Local Report Cards until the investigation by the Auditor of State is concluded.

We thought it would be useful to compare how effective traditional public schools were versus their charter school counterparts. The results are staggeringly bad for charter schools

Report Card Rating Traditional Schools Charter Schools
Academic Emergency 3.4% 18.8%
Academic Watch 4.6% 15.6%
Continuous Improvement 10.4% 27.3%
Effective 21.4% 15.6%
Excellent 41.0% 7.4%
Excellent with Distinction 14.4% 1.1%
Not Rated 4.8% 14.2%

61.6% of all charter schools in Ohio are less than effective, while that can only be said of 18.4% of traditional schools. If the purpose of charter schools was to be incubators of excellence, they are doing a very poor job, with only 8.5% of them hitting the excellent or better rating. Indeed, if you truly want to see excellence, you have to look at traditional public schools, where over 55% are rated excellent or better.

If "school choice" organizations in Ohio had any integrity, the choice they would be urging in almost all cases, would be for parents to choose traditional public schools. In the vast majority of cases, their advocacy of charter schools are an advocacy of miserable failure, at huge tax payer expense.

Diane Ravitch spoke to this issue in Columbus yesterday

Proficiency testing and charter schools were billed in the late 1990s as solutions to a broken public-education system. Now, they are part of a failed status quo, said Ravitch, 74, an author and U.S. assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush.

Proficiency tests have changed — from something that assesses students to something used to punish teachers and schools, said Ravitch. And after a decade of poor results from charter schools, she said, the charter movement and high-stakes testing have proved to be failed national experiments.

Also at the same event, Greg Harris, the Ohio director of the 65,000-member charter-school advocacy group StudentsFirst

...charters were supposed to provide an experiment in innovation, and though many have failed, many others are working.

“The parents are making these choices” to go to charters, Harris said. “These are parents from high-poverty backgrounds who are making major sacrifices to get their kids out of failing schools.

“We agree with her that bad charter schools should be closed, but why close good ones?”

Parents are often steered into these choices by corporate education reformers and their boosters, like StudentsFirst, the most ironically named group of all. And when parents aren't being steered into wrong choices, it's because they are using factors other than quality to make their decisions, as we noted in this article.

Education News for 09-21-2012

State Education News

  • Top Ohio court keeps levy repeal off ballot (Columbus Dispatch)
  • 2 Westerville school officials won’t have to worry about making $7 million in budget cuts this school year…Read more...

  • Safety forces teach students how to respond in emergencies (WOIO)
  • 2 The Cuyahoga County Office of Emergency Management is teaming up with the city and schools in Independence on a National Preparedness Day event…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Lawsuits fly over Stow school board meetings (Akron Beacon Journal)
  • 2 The Stow school board has filed its response and counterclaim against board member Rod Armstrong…Read more...

  • Columbus schools chief Harris leaving (Columbus Dispatch)
  • 2 Columbus Superintendent Gene Harris, the nation’s longest-serving urban school superintendent, unexpectedly announced yesterday that she will retire in July…Read more...

  • Two hit lists found in Kenton schools this week (Lima News)
  • 2 What normally would have been a regular school week turned into a dramatic one for Kenton schools. On Monday, there was a hit list found at Kenton Middle School and on Wednesday, one was found in Espy Elementary…Read more...

  • Property issue may hurt Granville schools (Newark Advocate)
  • 2 A potential reduction in the valuation of the Cherry Valley Lodge property sought by its former and current owners could inflict another…Read more...

  • New Boston parents react to school delays (Portsmouth Daily Times)
  • 2 Parents of children in the New Boston School district are feeling a little disappointed this week, upon news that the opening of the new school…Read more...

  • Cleveland school levy costly but vital (WKYC)
  • 2 This fall, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District has a levy on the ballot asking voters to pass their comprehensive restructuring…Read more...

Education News for 08-08-2012

State Education News

  • School costs rise 6% (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • Columbus-based Huntington Bank has released its 2012 Backpack Index, which shows that parents can expect to pay 6 percent more than they did in 2011 for back-to-school supplies…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Columbus schools barely keep C on state report card (Columbus Dispatch)
  • The Columbus school district has slipped in its score on this year’s state report card and will barely cling to an overall C grade, preliminary data show…Read more...

  • Attendance scandal: ‘There is no way I would condone this,’ Harris says (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Some Columbus school-district principals might have received financial bonuses by retroactively changing student-attendance records to boost their schools’ state report- card numbers, Superintendent Gene Harris acknowledged yesterday…Read more...

  • Madison School levy fails; personnel cuts likely (Willoughby News Herald)
  • The Madison School District will begin to examine where cuts can be made after voters rejected a 4.9-mill levy Tuesday…Read more...

  • Pay-to-play policy in Poland schools brings minimal downsizing to teams (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • Pay-to-participate fees haven’t caused a dramatic drop in participation in fall sports, with the exception of high-school cross country, which was anticipated, the athletic director says…Read more...


  • Necessary resignation (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Ohio’s Education Department faces Herculean challenges: Fix school funding, repair a district-accountability system mired in scandal and ensure that third-graders can read, to name a few…Read more...

  • Education official must face penalties for errors (Marietta Times)
  • Many public officials caught in wrongdoing maintain they just didn't know what they did crossed legal and/or ethical lines…Read more...

  • Quitting isn't enough (Toledo Blade)
  • Stan Heffner's departure as Ohio's top education official became inevitable after a state report suggested he had deliberately concealed a major conflict of interest and used public resources for personal business…Read more...

  • Penalize former Ohio school head (Warren Tribune Chronicle)
  • Many public officials caught in wrongdoing maintain they just didn't know what they did crossed legal and / or ethical lines…Read more...

  • Ohio has opportunity to bolster accountability in education (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Rigorous academic standards and high-stakes accountability for schools and educators alike are important for school-improvement efforts…Read more...

Education News for 07-23-2012

Statewide Stories of the Day

  • 2.8 million school absences erased (Dispatch)
  • Columbus City Schools officials wiped 2.8 million student absence days off the district’s computers during the past 51/2 school years, with some key officials responsible for tens of thousands of deletions. The officials routinely erased more recorded student absences than they reported to the state — in some years, substantially more — according to district data tables The Dispatch obtained by filing a public-records request. Read more...

  • Many third-graders lag in reading proficiency (Enquirer)
  • Twenty-one percent of Ohio’s third-graders – 25,963 students – were not proficient in reading last school year, according to preliminary test results released by the Ohio Department of Education. That’s up from 20 percent in 2010-11. Starting in 2013-14, scoring poorly on the test will have major consequences for third-grade students. That’s when a new law by Ohio Gov. John Kasich will require them to repeat the school year if they don’t do well enough on the test despite two years of reading intervention. Read more...

  • Youngstown schools miss targets, lose $1.8M (Vindicator)
  • Youngstown - The city school district will see its school-improvement money slashed more than 50 percent for next year because the schools didn’t meet growth goals. The federal School Improvement Grant money allotted for University Project Learning Center, Chaney and East totaled $3.3 million. For next year, the amount is reduced to about $1.5 million, said Doug Hiscox, deputy superintendent for academic affairs. “Each year, you have to go through a process for evaluating how well things were done or whether you met targets,” he said. Read more...

Local Issues

  • Toledo Public Schools records adjusted to lift state test scores (Blade)
  • Toledo Public Schools has manipulated some students' attendance data to improve state report-card scores, the district's superintendent told The Blade on Friday. Under the practice, schools retroactively withdraw and re-enroll chronically absent students to erase their poor attendance records. Ohio school districts apparently are allowed to throw out test scores of students who are not continuously enrolled from October through the testing dates in March and May. Read more...

  • Middle school students learn how to navigate college through CampUS program (Newark Advocate)
  • GRANVILLE - Alma Zahar is a 13-year-old student at Southmoor Middle School in Columbus. She's had thoughts of becoming a doctor but had no idea how to go about it. "That takes a lot of years," she said. "But I wasn't sure what schools to go to. But this explained to me what type of colleges there are: community college, technical college and four-year college." Zahar was just one of about 40 middle school students at Denison University from Saturday to June 29 learning how to navigate the path to college in a program called CampUS. Read more...

  • Cleveland's school tax levy must be tied to creative parental classroom involvement (Plain Dealer)
  • The Perry family of Collinwod may represent one of Cleveland's best hopes for passing an enormous 15-mill school levy request that will likely appear on the November ballot. But to make that happen, it's pretty important that their son, Shaquille, stays alive. It's that simple. Shaquille is an emerging role model for the city. He should be encouraged and protected. He's a good example of what a determined young man can do in the face of formidable odds when bolstered by strong parental support. He will enroll at Kentucky State University this fall. Read more...

  • Audit finds former Imagine school officials made undocumented purchases (Repository)
  • State auditors say former employees of a Canton-based community school made nearly $4,500 worth of questionable purchases during a Best Buy shopping trip in 2010. The Ohio Auditor’s Office flagged the transactions during its most recent annual financial review of Imagine Schools on Superior at 1500 Superior Ave. NE. The school, formerly known as Pathways to Success Canton Community School, serves roughly 180 students between kindergarten to fourth grade and is not affiliated with a public school district. Read more...

  • Harris shakes up leadership of Columbus schools (Dispatch)
  • Columbus Schools Superintendent Gene Harris will shake up her top staff, in part to cover for reassignments resulting from a state investigation into whether district officials rigged school performance data. In a memo dated Monday, Harris said she would again name the district’s former lobbyist to a major leadership role. With the departure of former Chief Academic Officer Keith Bell to become superintendent of Euclid schools, Harris will promote the district’s chief operating officer, John Stanford, to the new post of deputy superintendent. Read more...


  • Coming face to face with the sad state of runaway teens (Blade)
  • On a recent evening, an unexpected knock on my study window in the back of the house brought me face to face with the problem of runaway teenagers. A young girl in her early teens, clad in not-too-clean clothes, begged to be let in. Instead, I met her in front of the house. Waiting for police to arrive, we talked in the driveway. She had run away from a nearby group home for troubled teens, she told me. She said she had run away at least 30 times in the past three years. Somehow, every place she was sent annoyed her to the point she thought her only option was to run away. Read more...

  • If Clevelanders want a future for their public schools, it will cost them 15 mills (Plain Dealer)
  • Gasp. That's the sound that came from many Clevelanders when they learned last week that the Cleveland public schools are asking for a 15-mill levy to implement Mayor Frank Jackson's hard-won school reform plan. Despite their skepticism of -- or even outright anger at -- their long-troubled school system, voters must take a leap of faith for the future of Cleveland's 41,000 students. The levy would deliver an estimated $77 million annually to support the Cleveland Plan for Transformation over the next four years. Read more...

  • Fast action by board is troubling (Tribune Chronicle)
  • The Warren Board of Education wants to achieve academic excellence. But it decided against conducting an excellent search for a new school superintendent. The board last week named Warren G. Harding High School principal Michael Notar as the district's next superintendent. The board did not accept any applications or conduct any interviews prior to deciding who would be in charge of the district. Board members said there was no need because of how familiar they are with Notar. Read more...