Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The VAM Moose: Coming to a School Near You

Concerned with the negative publicity surrounding the use of Value Added Models (VAMs)* for teacher evaluation, the Grates Foundation, the Foundation for Excess in Education, RheeFirst and other proponents of such models have decided to take a new approach to promoting the controversial mathematical model. “People are having difficulty grasping the complicated statistical formulas,” said spokesperson Eric “Fuzzy” Numbers. “We needed to come up with an entertaining way to promote the program. We were sitting around crunching incomprehensible data one day, and we hit on the idea of a mascot. We were thinking along the lines of Smokey the Bear or the San Diego Chicken. And so, VAM Moose was born. I think we have really hit the jackpot with this one. At first we were going with a ferret, but decided the moose was cuddlier. His motto is, “Raise those test scores or VAM Moose!" Catchy, huh?

The VAM Moose and his motto will be featured in public service announcements, billboards and internet pop-ups promoting value added assessment of teacher performance. Asked about the long series of reports from respected organizations like ETS, the Educational Policy Institute and the Rand Corporation calling into question the use of VAMs for any high stakes decisions, Mr. Numbers said, “That’s why we need the moose. We need to turn around the conversation and facts won’t help us. Nothing like a soft and cuddly mascot to sell a flawed product. Look what Tony the Tiger did for Frosted Flakes.”

In a related story, Walmart has announced it is launching a line of stuffed talking VAM Moose dolls to go on sale in time for the Christmas season. The cute and cuddly item, manufactured in Guatemala, will have a pull string that when activated has the moose say, “No excuses! No excuses!”

* For the uninitiated, VAMs are statistical models that use student scores on standardized tests to mis-measure teacher effectiveness. They have been very popular with education reformy types. For a fuller, and more sober analysis of this flawed tool please see the following.

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