This Week In Education: Bruno: Actually, Statisticians Are Cautiously Optimistic About VAM

If you read the report yourself - and don't just scan for the bits you find convenient - you will see that at various points the authors point out that value-added scores correlate with future student outcomes (academic and otherwise) and teachers' own scores in future years. They also discuss ways to improve the reliability of value-added models, and are especially optimistic about using VAMs to help students and schools monitor student progress. The report does, of course, emphasize that caution is needed when interpreting and using VAM data, but even here it is important to remember that all methods of evaluation have limitations. That reformers often do not understand those limitations is no excuse for pretending the alternatives are not limited in their own ways. None of which is to say this report is a major vindication for reformers. Make no mistake: this report throws a great deal of cold water on the sorts of VAM proposals that prominent reformers are often associated with, which are often rooted in deep misunderstandings of statistics and labor markets and promoted with over-the-top, unrealistic rhetoric. Nevertheless, it requires a considerable degree of cherry-picking and motivated reasoning to suggest that this report - which explicitly refuses to condemn any particular policy - is a blanket rejection of value-added modeling.

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