This discussion paper reviews the policy instrument of value-added measurement or modelling (VAM) and the implications the instrument has for teaching and learning in a global context. VAM is based on the assumption that it is possible to create adequately complex statistical models that capture the essential and universal factors in what makes some schools and teachers more effective than others without sacrificing the complexity of education, teaching and learning.
The paper unfolds the debates and critique raised against VAM. After a brief account of the origins, basic ideas and current use of VAM globally, four particular concerns related to VAM are discussed:
- a technical critique of the statistical modelling underlying VAM;
- a broader critique on the constitutive e effects of VAM on education and its objectives;
- the sidelining of teachers in the debate on evaluation of school and teacher performance; and
- the promotion of VAM by private enterprises and major development agencies in low- and middle income countries.
The reductionism of VAM has proved to have some appeal as a simple solution to fix complex realities. Teacher unions should be aware of the characteristics of the policy instrument. In particular, education systems in low-income countries might prove vulnerable in the coming years as international donors and for-profit enterprises appear to be endorsing VAM as a means to raise school and teacher quality in spite of the lack of evidence and the extensive critique raised against the instrument.