“Perhaps this is the time for a counter-reformation” summarizes some choice tidbits on charter schools, test-based metrics & value-added modeling, and performance-based pay and firing, from a statistician’s perspective.
On charter schools:
The majority of the 5,000 or so charter schools nationwide appear to be no better, and in many cases worse, than local public schools when measured by achievement on standardized tests.
On value-added modeling:
A study [using VAM] found that students’ fifth grade teachers were good predictors of their fourth grade test scores… [which] can only mean that VAM results are based on factors other than teachers’ actual effectiveness.
On performance-based pay and firing:
There is not strong evidence to indicate either that the departing teachers would actually be the weakest teachers, or that the departing teachers would be replaced by more effective ones.
[A study] conducted by the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt… found no significant difference between the test results from classes led by teachers eligible for bonuses and those led by teachers who were ineligible.
Just for the record, I believe that charter schools, increased use of metrics, merit pay and a streamlined process for dismissing bad teachers do have a place in education, but all of these things can more harm than good if badly implemented and, given the current state of the reform movement, badly implemented is pretty much the upper bound.
I’m less pessimistic than Mark is about the quality of implementation of these initiatives, but I agree that how effectively well-intentioned reforms are implemented is always a crucial concern.