As the Obama administration rolls out the funding for its Race for the Top, a good deal of attention is being paid to value added measures for calculating teachers salaries. Simply put: teachers in many areas will be paid based on their students’ test scores. Like everything, there are pros and cons. But for a person who’s working with the effects of stress on performance, and until certain things about value added measures are rethought, I’m going to give this two thumbs decidedly down.
A good, brief comprehensive summary on the problems with value added measures is by cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham. Of the
six points he covers for why value added measures aren’t fair, I’m going to highlight one: that using value added measures focuses only on short term gain. In other words, teaching for the test at the end of the year focuses on test content to the exclusion of the more lasting attributes students need to succeed, in school and in life.
Why are we interested in students being able to “perform” (meaning, give right answers) rather than putting our attention on their growth? I vote for the latter. And that doesn’t mean we forget about the things kids need to learn. Why can’t we train kids to take tests and at the same time pay attention to the skills they need for life-long success– meaning being calm, confident and focused when they face any test, in school and out?
We need to rethink value added measures. Let’s look at what teachers are really giving their students,and where they’re missing the boat.
See Dr. Willingham’s succinct summary of what’s wrong with value added measures on YouTube.