By December 7, 2014 Uncategorized 2 Comments

Way back on August 7, 1961 (when I was the ripe old age of 12 weeks), Barry Mann’s hit song, “Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp) debuted on the Billboard Hot 100.

In the song, Mann sings about the frequent use of nonsense lyrics in Doo-Wop music, and how his girl fell in love with him after listening to several such songs.

For those of us prone to criticize the quality of some of today’s hit songs, it may be instructive to review the stuff coming out of AM radios (or 45 records) a few generations ago.


(Barry Mann / Gerry Goffin)

Barry Mann – 1961

I’d like to thank the guy

Who wrote the song

That made my baby

Fall in love with me

Who put the bomp

In the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?

Who put the ram

In the rama lama ding dong?

Who put the bop

In the bop shoo bop shoo bop?

Who put the dip

In the dip da dip da dip?

Who was that man?

I’d like to shake his hand

He made my baby

Fall in love with me (yeah!!)

When my baby heard

“Bomp bah bah bomp ”

“Bah bomp bah bomp bah bomp bomp”

Every word went right into her heart

And when she heard them singin’

“Rama lama lama lama”

“Rama ding dong”

She said we’d never have to part


Makes you want to get up and dance a jig, doesn’t it? If you would enjoy hearing the song (HERE) performed by Barry via YouTube, it is kinda fun!

It is interesting to note that President Obama was but three DAYS old when this song came out and his future Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, was still a glimmer in his parents’ eyes and would not come around until 1964.

I wonder if Arne’s mother was similarly affected by all this bop shoo bop shooing and rama lama ding donging? One thing is for certain: Her son would go on to become largely responsible for putting the VAM in the vama lama ding dong of education reform.

VAM (value added models) are clearly Arne’s baby, and he loves them dearly.

These types of quantitative measures were adopted by over 30 states in 2010 as cash-starved state legislatures vied for extra federal dollars by way of Arne’s Race to the Top (RTTT) competition.

Those states who failed to win a grant were then coerced into keeping these new teacher evaluation measures through Arne’s ESEA Flexibility Waivers, which provided a reprieve from the ridiculous mandate of NCLB of having 100% of students proficient in math and reading by this year.

If you have read some of my recent posts about the use of value added models, you will know that these models have been found rife with statistical error and unreliability. The April study released by the American Statistics Association (ASA) made it very clear that VAM should not be used for high stakes decisions about teachers.

Again, here is just part of what the ASA said:

  • VAMs are generally based on standardized test scores and do not directly measure potential teacher contributions toward other student outcomes.
  • VAMs typically measure correlation, not causation: Effects – positive or negative – attributed to a teacher may actually be caused by other factors that are not captured in the model.

Since Arne is the man who put the VAM in the vama lama ding dong, you might think he would be interested in the current research about its effectiveness in improving teaching and learning. You would be wrong.

VAM is Arne’s baby. It is the bomp in his bomp bah bomp bah bomp. You can call his baby “ugly” all you want, and even provide empirical evidence, and he will insist VAM is a beautiful thing that just needs a little refinement.

Shortly after the ASA released their study, Washington Post writer, Valerie Strauss, was actually bold enough to question Duncan about his seemingly blind allegiance to these VAM instruments, despite mounting evidence of their unreliability. Here is the response she received from his press secretary, Dorie Nolt:

“Including measures of how well students are learning as part of multiple indicators of educator effectiveness is part of a set of long-needed changes that will improve classroom learning for kids. Growth measures are a significant improvement over the system that existed before, which failed to produce useful distinctions in teacher performance. Growth measures — including value-added measures — focus attention on student learning and show progress. While these measures are better than what existed before, educators will continue to improve them, and sharp, critical attention from the research community can help.”

When Strauss asked Nolt if Duncan is aware of the latest research, she said: “We keep track of all major research on this topic.”

In other words: “Bomp bah bah bomp. Bah bomp bah bomp bah bomp bomp”

So if anyone is wondering whether Duncan and his team have been affected by the new research (or even the old VAM research), the answer seems to be a resounding “no.” Not just no, VAM NO!

And that is just the Bop Shoo Bop Shoo Bop of the whole matter. Arne and his team will just keep talking nonsense, put it to a catchy beat, and hope for a hit.

Sorry, Arne. While Barry Mann’s song made it into the top ten, there is not a VAM chance your rhetoric will cause anybody in the classroom to fall in love with your baby. VAM is junk science and will never gain acceptance in schools as a meaningful measure of teacher performance.

We are all looking forward to seeing you and your silly ideas VAMoose and bop shoo bop all the way back to Illinois.

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