I was planning on hanging up my keyboard, but sometimes the universe puts things in our inboxes that demand immediate Internet posting and hopefully wide dispersal. Besides, this housewife thing is getting dreadfully boring. My life is nothing like that of a Bravo Real Housewife. I do not spend my days having lunch in trendy restaurants, lingerie shopping with the girls, or recovering from plastic surgery procedures. I spend my days cleaning up bodily fluids from children aged 5- 9 months and unloading dishwashers and laundry machines. I must not be a Real Housewife. Domestic slave might be a better term. The drudgery of household chores is tolerable, the isolation can be insanity inducing. A former teacher in my neighborhood who is now on maternity leave actually goes and hangs out at the bus stop just to have another human being to talk to. Bus fumes give me migraines, so I blog instead. On to the document that brought Kafkateach out of retirement. Any teacher in danger of being VAMmed must immediately click and read the entirety of this link (gosh that sounds like SPAM but we are dealing with VAM, something equally lacking in substance and an annoying waste of time). http://oada.dadeschools.net/VAM%20Information/ForTeachersVAMFAQsv4.pdf
I promise I did not write this (though it is perhaps the most Kafkaesque VAM document to be published by an educational bureaucracy yet). A few months back in one of my 2 a.m. delusional moments of blogging, I wrote a blog post of an imaginary question and answer session between a teacher and VAM https://kafkateach.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/if-vam-could-talk-what-would-it-say/. The scary part is, some of the questions and answers in the Miami Dade VAM document and my satirical Kafkateach responses are shockingly similar. Could this be a case of life imitating art? Hardly, since this blog could never be called “art”, but maybe some Miami Dade overpaid bureaucrat in the research and statistics department came across my blog? Both documents were published in May 2013 so know telling which one came first. Although the voice of VAM in my document uses the token response of “No comment” for most of the teacher’s questions, the real life Dade County voice of VAM gives answers that are the bureaucratic equivalent of “No comment” just with a bunch of statistical mumbo jumbo thrown in. Case in point, compare the last two questions and answers on the Dade document to the Kafkateach blog:
Question: How can I know how high my students are expected to score?
Answer: The actual expectation is complicated to figure out precisely. However, the single best predictor is the student’s score from the previous year. Perhaps you have an understanding of your students’ percentile standings within the State from last year. To the extent that they improve on their percentile standings, your VAM estimate will improve. Think of it like this: you and your students are competing against similar students in the State. Instruct your students so that they outscore their peers in the State. That will translate into a higher VAM estimate.
Question: But the VAM doesn’t give me any useable advice for improving my classes. What teaching behaviors should I change to improve my VAM score?
Answer: You may receive useful advice on that issue from many different sources. Unfortunately, there is nothing in the VAM methodology that addresses ways to improve the effectiveness of your teaching.
These were the last two questions on the Kafkateach blog:
Teacher: Would it be possible for you to provide your predictions for how much our students are expected to grow at the beginning of the year so we can better monitor their progress through the use of district interim assessments?
VAM: That’s Top Secret information. If I told you, I would have to kill you
Teacher: Before you leave VAM, only to return again a year past any usefulness, can you offer a “needs improvement” or “unsatisfactory” teacher any constructive feedback on how they can better serve their students and enhance their craft?
VAM: No comment for helping your students. You can better serve yourself by finding a new group of students to teach and by sabotaging your fellow teachers. Steal their books, distract their class, invite all their students to a pizza party in your classroom during the other teacher’s class time. Their students won’t show much growth over the year and you will look like the master of bioengineering a super crop of test takers.
OK, so maybe my plagiarism case wouldn’t stand up in a court of law. But I do find it odd that the last two questions in the Dade County document are essentially the same as the last two questions in my blog. Just another one of my crazy VAM conspiracy theories perhaps. The sad part is, in both documents the teacher is left feeling equally bewildered and helpless over a formula that now controls their career. They’ve been VAMmed.
If you’ve been VAMmed, please share your experience in the commenting section below.