Surrender, Dorothy: OTES and the District Behind the Curtain

Like Dorothy in the Emerald City, I had hope.  My district’s teacher evaluation committee, comprised of district higher-ups and teacher association members, had a chance to make things right by VAM teachers. We all know VAM is unfair. So like Dorothy’s wish to go home, maybe fairness and equity would be returned to the OTES process, at least for a little while, by evaluating teachers based on their teaching, not Reform City test scores over which we have zero control.

Surrender, Dorothy. Surrender, indeed, because in this world, fair isn’t always equal, even when the yellow brick road to fairness was easily available to the committee. The state took away the PARCC, but The Committee gave us the impossible task of using the equally egregious MAP test to measure student growth and, by proxy, our effectiveness.

MAP is yet another witches’ broom we are supposed to chase, one more standardized test over which ELA and Math teachers have no control: We cannot see the tests, we never see graded results, and the student growth measures and thus our “value added” are calculated by some Great and Powerful Algorithm of Oz that will never be revealed.

So while SLO-based colleagues in the middle and high schools will be giving pretests with results that they can actually use to improve their student growth measures and keep their jobs secure, VAM teachers will be giving MAP tests in the dark and praying for positive outcomes.  Once again, we will see SLO teachers (who are *supposed* to trade and grade but not all of them do) rated accomplished and skilled, while VAM/MAP teachers will have to prove their worth with Pinterest-inspired evidence binders to offset potentially harmful and damaging MAP scores.

But it wouldn’t have been “fair” to those teachers who write SLOs if VAM teachers get a pass on student growth measures, even when those measurements have been proven to be worthless and without statistical merit.  And just like we tell our students, fair isn’t always equal.

I sure hope my ruby slippers work.