Value-Added Modeling: A Modest Proposal

21 11 2010

After the LA Times posted the names and ratings of 6000 teachers based on “value-added modeling,” the “education reform” world went crazy. Even the Obama administration supports this type of teacher-evaluation. My thoughts: why stop with teaching? Why not use value-added modeling (VAM) to assess all kinds of professionals? Here’s a sample of what it might look like.

Since the value that a teacher adds is only measured by math and English scores, doctors’ effectiveness needs to be measured by similarly limited means: maybe average BMI and blood pressure for all patients? I mean, those are general indicators of health, right? If the patients don’t become healthier over time, I suppose the doctor should probably be fired from his or her job.

The purpose of hiring an accountant is to manage one’s wealth (or lack thereof). Of course, the ultimate goal should probably be to become more wealthy over time. That’s logical, right? The more efficiently one’s money is managed the easier it will be to acquire more of it. Therefore, accountants’ effectiveness should be measured only by the average net increase of their clients’ net worth. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Priests and other religious leaders are professionals too, and if they truly do their job, then their parishioners should demonstrate an increased knowledge of whatever religious text on which the particular belief system focuses. Whether it’s The Bible, The Koran, or The Book of Mormon, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for society to expect congregations to have a proficient understanding of the major tenets of their religion. Therefore, I propose that once yearly ALL members of a church, synagogue, etc. should take a comprehension-based test of the major religious text used in the institution. Priests’ effectiveness will be measured based on how much each person’s comprehension increases over time.

Bill Gates
Apple is gaining on Microsoft. Of course, this is probably in large part to the innovative iPhone and iPad, which allows people accessibility to the Internet and computing-type tasks anywhere they want to go. Clearly, the employees at Apple are much more creative than the ones at Microsoft. Therefore, I think Bill Gates’ effectiveness should be measured on his employees’ increased creativity. If they remain stagnant (or decrease), perhaps Microsoft needs to start shopping for a new CEO.

Arne Duncan
As Obama’s Secretary of Education, it really is Duncan’s responsibility to make sure students are learning. After all, he is the ultimate education leader. If teachers’ performance isn’t improving, well, couldn’t one make an argument that it’s because of the lack of support from the top? Shouldn’t Arne share in some of the responsibility? Therefore, I propose that Duncan’s effectiveness should also be measured based on student performance. Don’t like that Arne? Then VAM is probably wrong for everyone.