Picture a balance scale that measures evidence that either supports or rejects the notion that teacher effectiveness can be measured by the ‘value-added’ model. On the left side of the balance beam is a study funded by CEO Bill Gates last year and a handful of others. On the right side of the beam, outweighing the lonesome Gates study many times over, are a number of studies done by educators, economists, mathematicians, and a lot of others.
Last week yet another study was added to the right side of the balance beam. This study done by a leading mathematician drives one more nail into the value-added coffin:
“The latest instance of the phenomenon (misuse of mathematics) is valued-added modeling (VAM), used to interpret test data. Value-added modeling pops up everywhere today, from newspapers to television to political campaigns. VAM is heavily promoted with unbridled and uncritical enthusiasm by the press, by politicians, and even by (some) educational experts, and it is touted as the modern, “scientific” way to measure educational success in everything from charter schools to individual teachers.
Yet most of those promoting value-added modeling are ill-equipped to judge either its effectiveness or its limitations. Some of those who are equipped make extravagant claims without much detail, reassuring us that someone has checked into our concerns and we shouldn’t worry. Value-added modeling is promoted because it has the right pedigree – because it is based on “sophisticated mathematics.”As a consequence, mathematics that ought to be used to illuminate ends up being used to intimidate. When that happens, mathematicians have a responsibility to speak out.”
If you want to take a break from reading, check out this YouTube short that debunks the Value Added Model in a slightly less academic way. You’ll love this.
Local Non Profits Can Have HUGE Profits But Pay Very Little in Property Taxes
In an interesting news story, it was reported that Partners Health, composed of the MGH, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and many other affiliates, had a record fiscal quarter ending March 31, earning $71 million over last year’s $13 million. Good for them; they do good work and we are proud to have them in the city.
But what do they pay in taxes to the City of Boston given that they are a nonprofit? Not very much. They voluntarily pay $3 million in taxes to the City. Read the report by the City here. Were they to pay as if they were profit-making institutions, these two hospitals alone without their affiliates would pay north of $60 million per year in property taxes.
The City is to be given some credit for finally turning up the heat on these institutions and others, which get away virtually scot-free from paying taxes under a law that dates from 1830(!). By the way, the medical non-profits have lots of company on the academic side: Northeastern, for example, paid only $30,571. in FY 09 to the city (see p. 64 of the City’s report).
More and more cities are demanding more from non-profits in these hard times. See a report in the NY Times.