All seven misconceptions from Douglas N. Harris' new book are listed below, along with Mathews' thoughtful comments. Regarding the first misconception, I strongly believe we shouldn't avoid value-added measuring simply because it's "complicated", which could be a reason to avoid tackling all sorts of problems in education. Also, the team vs. individual aspect of evaluating educators keeps coming up in discussions. My bias leans towards rewarding individual efforts, which is the hallmark of at least one successful merit pay program.
The successful incentive arrangement cited in the article rewards individual teachers based on student performance.
Misconception 1: We cannot evaluate educators based on value-added because teaching is complicated.Harris says the complex nature of teaching and learning is obvious, but value-added can bring some clarity. Student outcomes are just one factor, but an important one. My problem is that the focus on each teacher’s effect on student academic growth detracts from the team spirit that animates the best schools I know.Misconception 1: We cannot evaluate educators based on value-added because teaching is complicated.Harris says the complex nature of teaching and learning is obvious, but value-added can bring some clarity. Student outcomes are just one factor, but an important one. My problem is that the focus on each teacher’s effect on student academic growth detracts from the team spirit that animates the best schools I know.Many tests are flawed, Harris says, but you can’t blame that on the value-added approach. If we had better tests, such as an assessment that caught the content of International Baccalaureate exams, we could “still use value-added methods with these richer assessments.” That sounds nice, but I think even my grandsons will be beyond IB age before we figure out how to do that reliably.Misconception 3: The value-added approach is not fair to students.This means that if we abandon our current system of calculating how many students reach proficiency, and instead assess how much each improves, students who have failed to achieve proficiency will be ignored. Harris says our current system is no better because it usually focuses only on students close to reaching proficiency. He is right.Misconception 4: Value-added measures are not useful because they are summative [he does use some jargon — this means focused on how well teachers have done] than formative [focused on how to make them better.]Harris concedes the point, but says value-added can be used with other measures to guide improvement. We need both summative and formative measures, he says. This, I think, overlooks the greater power of measuring yourself daily against your fellow teachers by trading thoughts about students.Misconception 5: Value-added represents another step in the process of “industrializing” education, making it more traditional and less progressive.The factory model of education, by this way of thinking, focuses too much on making every widget, and every student, the same way. Harris argues that “if policy makers concentrate on results, they can reduce the rules” that constrain imaginative educators and make schools more progressive. This topic makes me cross. It betrays an academic desire to categorize what schools are doing rather than see if they are helping kids.Misconception 6: Because we know so little about the effects of value-added, we cannot risk our kids’ futures by experimenting with it.“In a crisis,” Harris says, “the odds of making things better are high, lessening risk.” I don’t think many people suffer from this misconception. They realize that we once knew little about the first polio vaccines, which is why we needed to do experiments.Misconception 7: Value-added is a magic bullet that will transform education all by itself. Harris dismisses this quickly, which he should. I don’t know anyone who thinks this way.