Value-Added Scores Finally Explained by NM Education Department

This summer, an ongoing action by New Mexico teachers is to send in Inspection of Public Records requests (IPRAs, for short), asking the Public Education Department (PED) to send evidence that backs up teacher evaluation reports received this year, and the means used to calculate the scores.  We’ve waited.  We’ve waited some more.  Finally, some of those teachers received notices that the request is “burdensome,” and it would take the PED longer than expected.

Which is silly, since the PED happily reported the results of teacher evaluations to the press long before teachers were allowed to see them (and, of course, none of those press outlets thought to ask for substantiation).  You’d think PED would have access to the reports quickly, since they just finished them up.

Anyway, the results are trickling in.  One teacher asked for one extra piece of information:

“I would also like the VAS [Value-added Score] mathematical formula to derive this score.” 

PED responded to this teacher with the following letter:

NM PED Letter Response to VAS Request

I hope you’ll take a moment to read that, but here are a couple of highlights:

  • The score reflects the teachers’ evaluation for last year, not this year.
  • Data for this teacher can’t be aggregated the way it’s supposed to be, since it wasn’t even systematically collected prior to 2014.  This resulted in a “unique situation” that PED handled in creative ways.
  • On page 2, PED clearly states that the value-added score “is calculated from the Empirical Bayes (EB) estimate of r0j.”  What does that mean to a teacher?
  • The EB estimate is normalized.  I’m not a statistician, but I’m pretty sure that means it fits into a normal curve.  We also know that VAS incorporates the means of student scores throughout the state.  That means that you will ALWAYS have a situation where kids are being compared to kids, and teachers are being compared to teachers.
  • That also means that there will ALWAYS be roughly the same percentages of “ineffectives,” “minimally effectives,” “effectives,” and “highly effectives” every year.  Those percentages will not change, since the scores are normalized.

Page two breaks down the following equation, which is exactly as it looks directly from PED:

VAS image

The letter then attempts to define the variables in that equation.  As you can see, however, some of the characters are missing, probably due to formatting before the letter was sent, which shows extreme carelessness and misunderstanding on the part of the people who are responsible for imparting this nonsense crucial information!

Imagine reading that letter, knowing that your job and your pay scale depended on what it says.

Seriously, though, my favorite part of the letter is at the end.  After this convoluted and long-winded mess, the state education department has the gall to close with this statement:

“If you have further questions about your teacher evaluation, contact your school principal or your school district testing director.”

Obviously, the modus operandi of the New Mexico Public Education Department, when asked for information that determines teachers’ jobs and livelihoods, is “Confuse and Deflect.


  1. franandlaura says:

    Thank you for doing this research. “Value – Added” evaluations are the way forward for the state to implement merit pay. How long will it be before we’re all battling for bonus money instead of working together for reasonable wages?

  2. kathleen sabo says:

    Kris, could you please contact me at: at your earliest convenience? Many thanks!

  3. April Arviso says:

    I like this quote, “this resulted in a “unique situation” which the PED handled in creative ways.” Oh brother, shaking my head, eye roll!! I don’t think out wonderful teachers will get any sort of validation for the many hours of work they complete to educate ALL New Mexico’s children.

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