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OMG, a Good Idea: Educational Value-Added Assessment System

Good Ideas in education are hard to come by. People in Education like Lofty Ideas – ideas that sound good but have vague execution plans and no difficult choices or dirty work, and thus no results.  Good Ideas have difficult, politically challenging implementation processes and actually produce results.  Good Ideas don’t just sound nice, but they have guts and teeth.

I knew about EVAAS (Educational Value-Added Assessment System), but I didn’t KNOW about EVAAS until, at a BBQ in San Francisco, I met Claire Robertson-Kraft, a Penn/TFA alum who works at Operation Public Education. OPE has formed a team of leading experts across the country to develop a compehrensive approach to school reform. One of their consultants is Bill Sanders, who apparently invented EVAAS with his own two bare hands.

Claire sent me an insider’s look at Operation Public Education’s Comprehensive School Reform Model, which is a Good Plan (as opposed to a Lofty Plan).  (It has to be with Gates Foundation bankroll and love.)  They’ve got a fair and comprehensive method to determine value added from state assessments (which, I acknowledge, are limited) coupled with a killer Observation Framework for instruction developed and operated by Charlotte Danielson.  Add a little Administrator Evaluation as robust as the teacher observation.  Give it some incentive pay to get people moving towards the goals, and give it support with peer review and remediation.  Finally, give it teeth with mandatory remediation and ultimately dismissal with underperforming teachers.  Oh WAIT, new teachers also start as Apprentices and have to move up; if they can’t in five years, they are dismissed.  Yeah, like I said.  Its a Good Plan.  With a capital G and a capital P.

But, of course, to make it politically feasible there’s even a “Grandfather Clause” that allows existing teachers to keep the old compensation model.  Fine.

I know, critics argue that the assessments are non-comprehensive and a mere end-of-year, 3 hour clip of a summative assessment that students don’t even really care about.  True.  Alas, it’s better than nothing: the state tests are, for the most part, disastrously easy for well-educated children, and you gotta start somewhere.  OPE is already thinking about the next level of assessments, integrating comprehensive, varied, and authentic assessments is one of their chapter-worthy goals.

This is what I’ve been looking for: a plan that couples comprehensiveness and noble direction with guts and teeth.  Thank goodness.