Monday, August 25, 2014

VAM for Kindergartners? I say VAM for legislators.

The insanity of "big data" has finally hit the mainstream media, as the Washington Post notes that in Florida, kindergartners are technically-sorta-maybe required to take end of course (EOC) exams.  That's right--six-year-olds.  Already the kindergartners politicians are working to cover up their mistake by claiming the law was misinterpreted.  That's much better--because everyone knows you should wait until kids are seven years old before they start taking final exams/EOCs.  Eight at the latest.  (/sarcasm)  I mean, this is common sense here--you can't put peoples' livelihoods in the hands of kids.  Especially when teacher effects are just a small part of picture.  (The numbers appear to vary widely--which makes sense, given difficulties in measuring--but a quick search shows non-school effects range from ~67% to as much as 89% of learning/student success.)

So here is my solution to the problem:  VAMs for our legislators.  If they don't improve our education system, they will be ineligible to run for at least one election cycles.  NO exceptions.  A few key inputs for the model (please feel free to add/modify):
1.  The laws must be shown to have improved education.
2.  The laws must be shown to be cost-effective.
3.  Teacher morale will be factored in.
4.  Graduation rates must improve. This includes elementary and middle school.  (This too will require a cost-benefit analysis.)
5a.  Flexibility in education is key, so how quickly bills can be passed will be taken into account.
5b.  How much support the bill gets in the legislature will also be factored into the VAM.

Who's willing to bet that the instant the politicians realize they can be fired because of things nearly completely out of their control they suddenly have a very different opinion of VAM?  Anyone?  Anyone?

Update:  Gov. Rick Scott calls for review of Florida's standardized tests.  Combined with Arne "Duh" Duncan's latest, there's hope yet...better several-years-late than never to realize that testing mania has gotten out of hand.