I Hate VAM

VAM scores have just been released, and, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you probably don’t know any teachers.

So, here’s VAM in a nutshell.

The Value Added Model determines how much value a teacher has added to an individual student over the course of a year. This “value” is based on student growth from the previous year’s standardized test scores compared to their “expected score”—the formula for which is unknown. So, if a student scored 770 last year on leap, and the unknown formula expects them to score 780 this year, but they actually only score 775, that’s a -5 against the teacher. It’s disheartening to even the best teachers to see their “value-added” could be in the negatives.

Here’s what the Value Added Model doesn’t factor in:

I add value to my lessons through the weekly PLCs of collaboration with other teachers, the professional development I attend during the school year and the summer, the extra readings and research I do at home, and the reflections I make on student assessments to decide what’s going to be the best way to approach the next lesson for the students in front of me.

I add value to my school by sponsoring the Beta club with its 210 members who complete acts of service in our community, managing the gifted program to make sure our gifted students are in the classes they need, and meeting with the SBLC each week to put in interventions for struggling students.

I add value to my coworkers by sharing my ideas and reaching out to them for ideas too, being a sympathetic ear when they need to vent, helping to problem solve when issues with parents or students arise, and having a Keurig with k cups and creamer always on hand.

Most importantly, I add value to my students by showing up for them with a smile on my face, pushing them to be their best selves, and creating a safe environment where everyone has a voice. We grapple with big ideas when we read literature together, we experience the productive struggle when we write and rewrite, and we ask questions that might not have a simple answer. I add value by being the adult that actually talks to them, listens to them, and shows them it’s ok to not know but it’s not ok to not find out.

My value isn’t determined by some arbitrary formula, nor is it based on standardized test scores. I know what happens in my classroom, and so do my peers and administrators, parents and students. The impact I leave on students’ lives cannot be measured, and it might not be seen until years down the road.

I have value.

Right now, the education system has a problem. A BIG problem. At a time when there are critical shortages in areas like English and Math, the “powers that be” set those in the classroom up for failure. We’ve got Teachers of the Year scoring “Highly Effective” in their observations and other student learning targets, but scoring “Ineffective” or “Approaching Effective” according to VAM–with the same students! I’m not a math teacher, but something isn’t adding up.

If you know a teacher, please reach out, speak out. This system is broken.

Teachers have value beyond VAM.

Jaime Mackey
Originally from Florida, Jaime has lived in Southern Louisiana for most of her life (so, that makes her a local, right?). She currently resides on the Northshore with her husband and son and teaches high school English. An enneagram 5, you'll most likely find her doing hot yoga solo, on her phone researching a random topic or sitting in the comfort of her home with coffee and a book within an arm's reach.


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