Sunday, June 08, 2008

Houston's VA PD and the criticism of complexity

Whatever I think about the difficulty of training teachers and administrators to understand and use value-added measures, I agree with my colleague Rob Meyer who consistently argues that simple is better, unless it's wrong. I really like the quote from Bill Sanders at the end of the RedOrbit post linked above. Bill use a great teaching aid as well:
"I'm not going to trade simplicity of calculations for the reliability of the information," he said. "Before groups of teachers, I often hold up a cell phone and I say, 'I don't have a clue what's inside this, but I have to have trust that when I punch the numbers, it's going to call the right number.' "
There are two challenges when working with educators on understanding and using VA measures. First, one has to expose how the simplicity of attainment masks its underlying inadequacy as a performance measure. Second, one has to show that the more complex analysis used in VA models is more fair and gives educators credit for improving student learning no matter where the student starts across the range of prior ability.

There is no way to dodge the complexity bullet if we want to be fair to students and educators.


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