Are value-added models for high-stakes teacher accountability arbitrary and capricious?



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Value-added models are complex statistical formulas that aim to isolate the effect a teacher has on student learning. States and districts across the nation are adopting laws and policies that will evaluate teachers, in part, using the results provided by value-added models. In many states and districts, these evaluations will be used to inform high-stakes decisions about teacher salary and retention. However, value-added models are imperfect tools for assessing teacher effectiveness, and many scholars have argued that they are not appropriate for use in high-stakes decisions. This Article provides a brief history of the use of value-added models in public education and summarizes the major criticisms of using value-added models. In this context, the Article analyzes and evaluates the extent to which substantive due process claims brought by teachers adversely affected by the results of value-added models will be successful. The Article concludes that while the system as a whole is rationally related to the objective of improving the overall effectiveness of the teaching workforce, in certain cases, individual teachers will be able to successfully claim that the results of their value-added model led to a termination that was arbitrary and capricious. Finally, the paper offers some recommendations to states and school districts on how to implement an evaluation system using value-added models to avoid substantive due process violations.