17th century Value Added Teacher Evaluation - In Progress

In 1692 an unreasoning hysteria gripped a colonial township known as Salem Massachusetts.  What came after became known as the Salem Witch Trials.  A number of theories exist as to why dozens of women and men were railroaded into being declared witches based on absurd or non-existent evidence, but i would submit what was appealing to people was the relatively simple explanation and easy solution  (except if you were accused of being a witch.)


  • Your children are misbehaving and wiggling in their seats at suppertime? A witch must have pinched them.
  • Your dog has an extraordinary amount of fleas and is losing it’s hair? Obvious witchcraft!
  • The local tavern owner served you a witches brew instead of a beer which drove you mad? Hang her and confiscate her property for your own!

All very ridiculous accusations, but it’s really simple to accuse a “witch” and pardon yourself from having ineffective discipline methods for your children, or hygiene for your dog, or self-control of yourself when you drink.

This is exactly the same type of hysteria sweeping the same nation now, only the witches are “bad teachers” responsible for all the social ills plaguing our country.  Then, as now, a kangaroo court is being used to convict “bad teachers,” although the court goes by the name: Value Added.  The judges are faceless bureaucrats that took a few  seminars over the summer and think the reason kids haven’t been keeping up with students in the international area boils down to two things.  Teachers are bad, or teachers are lazy.

Pseudo educators and mathematicians are preaching the gospel of the Value Added model in much the same way the clergy in Salem promoted their tests for witches.  In Value Added analysis, people are flagged as “bad teachers”, the witches of Value Added.  They are presumed guilty and terminated as a result of these flaky self-serving tests and the peasants rejoice!

Problem solved and it required no effort on our part!

However, The tests don’t even try to address other possible causes for low student performance, such as medical diagnosis, family problems or lack of involvement, poverty or drug abuse to name a few.  Instead, Value Added focuses on only the symptoms, low test scores, and arbitrarily links a teacher to those symptoms – in the hopes of finding a witch to crucify.

Value Added has never been about improving student performance or providing input for solutions.  The issues facing society are complicated – far more than what can encapsulated on a few bubbled in answers on a few tested subjects.  Value added has been all about identifying some “witches” to fix the blame for all our problems.

A scarlet letter B for all to see!

A blame based solution doesn’t cost much to implement, it absolves most people of any responsibility for a problem (both are key elements for making it popular) and it usually just creates more problems and solves none.

On the upside, it appears we will never run out of witches.

3 thoughts on “The New Salem Witch Trials (aka Value Added Evaluations and the Outsized Search for “Bad Teachers”)

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