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Monday, February 24, 2014

The shameful use of VAM scores by the Times Union

About a year ago a paper in New York printed the addresses of all the registered gun owners in their town and it was perfectly legal for them to do so. People though were rightfully outraged. The Times Union should have learned from their mistake that just because you can do something it doesn’t mean that they should.

When the Times Union decided to print the VAM scores of area teachers they said selling a few papers was worth selling out the regions teachers. VAM creates a prediction and then grades teachers on whether they made that prediction or not. I don’t know about you but I want to be evaluated on what I did do not on what some complicated mathematical formula says it thinks I should do, a formula by the way that have been known to generate scores off by several standard deviations.

Not only does VAM not take into account attendance, behavior, parental involvement, poverty and so many other factors but more than half the teachers evaluated are done so on students they have never seen in their classroom or on subjects they did not teach and that not the scores is what the Times Union should be telling the public. The TU is acting like a gun runner who tells them self I just provide the guns I don’t pull the trigger in an attempt to ease their conscious of the firestorm that this is going to create.

Parents have long had a remedy if they wanted to see their teachers past evaluations and that is to go to the school board building and to check out their files. Now the Times Union has just given them a contextless set of numbers that for the most part aren’t based on what is happening in the classroom.

Teachers already have a tough enough job and have already had to sacrifice so much in Florida over the last few years that they shouldn’t have to endure this indignation. The Times Union should be fighting to help the profession not to further harm it.

Teachers are not afraid of getting evaluated, they just want to be done so fairly and shame on the state of Florida for coming up with the VAM method that no respecting education policy maker or mathematician for that matter say should be used to evaluate teachers and shame on the Times Union for doubling down on this tragedy and making them available. Selling a few papers shouldn’t be more important than doing what is right.


  1. As a teacher who has received highly effective evaluations for 2 years in a row, I still did not want the VAM scores made public. They really are meaningless, and that will be lost on the general public who read them. It is despicable and truly saddening to know that a newspaper is so desperate they will forgo actual reporting on education issues that require investigative journalism and go for the easy scapegoat - teachers. Any amount of even casual research would have informed you that VAM data is meaningless yet the Times acted like they were on some crusade and valiantly seeking truth....they know otherwise and went for it anyway...SHAME ON YOU TIMES UNION I will never, ever patronize your paper again. You are an embarrassment to real journalists everywhere.