If you don't know Sheri Lederman's name, you should. She's the New York teacher who, with her lawyer husband, dragged VAM into a courtroom this week and gave it the beatdown it so richly deserved.
Lederman's story is, at this point, the story of millions of other teachers. One year, her VAM score indicated that she was awesome. The next year, her VAM score indicated that she sucked. Not only was she pretty much the same teacher, but her students got pretty much the same scores.
Because of the importance of the case, lots of folks were there to watch. Carol Burris has a great account in The Answer Sheet, and this blog by Alexndra Milleta who has known Lederman for decades is also worth a read. Audrey Amrein-Beardsley has been following the case for a while. Diane Ravitch provides links to the pertinent documents and experts affadavits in the case.
There appear to be two issues that strike the judge in the case as dopey.
How do you set up an evaluation system that predetermines that some teachers must be bad? Judge Roger McDonough wants to know how you can have a fair system that starts with the premise that even if all the teachers are effective, some of the teachers are not effective. How can evaluations be evaluations is they are not actually tied to a real standard?
New York, like most VAM systems, bases its evaluations on imaginary students. The magical formula creates an imaginary student, an avatar, who is somehow located in an imaginary universe where a neutral teacher leads her to a particular score. If your real student does better on the test than her imaginary counterpart, congratulations-- you're a swell teacher. If your real student does only as well as, or worse that, the imaginary counterpart-- so sorry, but you suck.
This is math as magic, an attempt to do a thing which cannot be done but to convince yourself you've done it because, hey, numbers!!
It will be a month or two before the judge comes back with a ruling, and if he rules against the evaluation system, get ready for the gates of hell to open. In the meantime, the Ledermans stand as a reminder that sometimes, someone has to stand up and make a fuss, and sometimes, when you look around at the circumstances of the moment, that person turns out to be you.