In a major indictment of the VAM growth model, a Long Island teacher has convinced an Albany County Supreme Court that her 2013-14 growth score was arbitrary and capricious and must be disregarded.

The Petitioner produced evidence of the irrational implications of the VAM method which included an affidavit from Professor Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University. The Professor stated that “teachers account for only about 1-14% of the variability in test scores” and that “New York’s VAM does not attempt to measure or control for variables such as school, classroom or home variables.” It further noted that “even variables such as poverty, disability or English Language Learners are not measured in a particularly nuanced fashion.”

Also, very important to the Court’s decision, was Professor Pallas’ conclusion that New York utilizes a “bell curve” under which “the percentages of teachers falling into four different categories of growth scores is predetermined. 7% will be in the top category (“Highly Effective”), 77% will be in the second category (“Effective”), 9 % in the third category (“Developing”) and 7% in the fourth category (“Ineffective”).”  Professor Pallas stated that percentages would remain consistent from year to year regardless of the increase or decrease in student performance on the assessments.  Therefore, Pallas concludes, the model is “irrational and unreasonable.”

After reviewing the evidence the Court determined that Lederman’s growth score and ratings were arbitrary and capricious based on: (1) VAM’s “bias against teachers at both ends of the spectrum”; (2) the disproportionate effect that petitioner’s small class size and high-performing students had on her growth score; (3) the “functional inability of high-performing students to demonstrate growth akin to lower-performing students”; (4) the inexplicable drop in petitioner’s growth score from 14 to 1, “despite the presence of statistically similar scoring students in her respective classes”; and (5) the bell-curve effect cited above.

The case, Lederman v. King, was decided on May 10th and will surely have an impact on SED’s pending review of growth score calculation methods.  However, we cannot allow this victory to be used by SED or others to simply pass the testing component of APPR onto local districts, which is what is occurring during the transition period. Our position remains that there is no place for high stakes testing of any kind in teacher or principal evaluations.  We will look to capitalize on this Court victory by diligently pushing SED and our legislators to move away from an evaluation system that includes test performance.

For a copy of the decision in this landmark case, see http://networkforpubliceducation.org/2016/05/ny-teacher-victorious-court-throw-vam-score/. We will monitor the effects that it has on growth measure calculations in New York State.

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Albert (Skip) Voorneveld
President