New President Of Country’s Largest Teachers’ Union On TVAAS: It’s ‘The Mark Of The Devil’

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the newly elected president of the National Education Association, takes a hard stance against assessment systems like TVAAS. (Source NEA)

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the newly elected president of the National Education Association, takes a hard stance against assessment systems like TVAAS. (Source NEA)

The new president of the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers’ union, says part of her strategy will be attacking an assessment that has deep roots in Tennessee.

In an interview with Politico, Lily Eskelsen Garcia says that value-added teacher evaluations that rate teachers on students’ standardized test results “are the mark of the devil.”

Garcia, a sixth-grade Utah teacher, critiques the algorithm from an angle often used by critics: alleging that it doesn’t account for things like poverty, and thus, it gives an incomplete picture of what impact a teacher is having on a classroom.

Bill Sanders, a statistician who came up with TVAAS, or the Tennessee Value Added Assessment System, 20 years ago, is widely cited as giving value-added measures national prominence. It should come as no surprise, then, that he doesn’t buy Garcia’s critique. He contends that when the data is analyzed properly — that is, when a student’s performance is judged against himself or herself over several years — then elements like poverty and race disappear. It’s because, he argues, things like poverty and race are inherent in the student’s historic data.

That said, Tennessee teachers are suing over TVAAS, claiming its method is unreliable and unpredictable — costing teachers money.

“The mark of the devil. I guess she’s calling me the devil. But I’m certainly not the only devil now,” said Sanders, who is now retired and lives in Columbia, Tenn. “They’re beating their PR drums on this, and they latched on to Common Core.”

TVAAS-like assessment have been adopted by a number of states like North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas. What’s more, the federal government has embraced them. The standardized tests aligned with Common Core public education standards are tied to TVAAS and other value-added measures; the tests are now used to determine how well or poorly a teacher is performing.

Sanders says the complaints about TVAAS and Common Core are just pushback from teachers’ unions who are afraid to jeopardize their membership base. Efforts to hold teachers accountable, he argues, are viewed as a threat.

Please keep your community civil. Comments will be moderated prior to posting, and Nashville Public Radio reserves the right to approve them at its discretion. Comments containing links promoting goods, services - even noble organizations - will not be published. Your comments may include external links, but all comments with links will be delayed as they are reviewed. Comments containing profanity will be rejected.