Sheri Lederman, Ed.D., a top-performing fourth grade teacher in the Great Neck Public School District is suing the State Education Department to invalidate a rating of “ineffective” on her evaluation.
The lawsuit states that Dr. Lederman’s students have consistently and substantially outperformed state averages in English Language Arts exams and 4th grade math exams over the course of her 17-year career at Great Neck. Over the last two years, approximately 68 percent of Dr. Lederman’s students have met or exceeded state standards, while the state average has been about 31 percent. Dr. Lederman’s superintendent, Thomas Dolan, signed an affidavit saying “her record is flawless” and that “she is highly regarded as an educator.”
Yet, when Lederman received her 2013-14 evaluation, based in part on student standardized test scores, she was rated “ineffective.”
According to the Washington Post:
The convoluted statistical model that the state uses to evaluate how much a teacher “contributed” to students’ test scores awarded her only one out of 20 possible points. These ratings affect a teacher’s reputation and at some point are supposed to be used to determine a teacher’s pay and even job status.
The evaluation method, known as value-added modeling, or VAM, purports to be able to predict through a complicated computer model how students with similar characteristics are supposed to perform on the exams — and how much growth they are supposed to show over time — and then rate teachers on how much their students compare to the theoretical students. New York is just one of the many states where VAM is one of the chief components used to evaluate teachers.
The lawsuit claims that Value Added Model as presently implemented by the state, actually punishes excellence in education through a statistical black box which no educator could see as fair or accurate. This past April, the American Statistical Association issued a report that called into question the use of VAM for teacher evaluation.
In the past, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the teacher evaluation system needed to be revised because not enough teachers were being labeled as “developing” or “ineffective.” Just last week, Cuomo vowed that if re-elected, he would push for a plan on evaluations that includes more incentives and sanctions that “make it a more rigorous evaluation system.”
The concept of evaluations are not new to New York. Teachers and principals have always been evaluated and held to standards, but under the current APPR, district evaluation plans must adhere to rigid rules set by the state and a portion of the evaluations is directly tied to student performance on state exams or other state-approved learning measures. The goal of APPR is to provide standardized, objective evaluation results.
This lawsuit filed by Dr. Lederman is interesting in that it goes after VAM as a measure to evaluate a teacher. Should VAM fall, it could significantly change the evaluation process in New York and around the country.