Thursday, October 18, 2012

Explaining Florida's VAM System

Florida Today had an interesting article on Sunday explaining Florida's new evaluation system and how Brevard County Schools is implementing the program. Up to half of Florida's teacher evaluations will be determined by an algorithm created by Washington-based Americans Institute for Research. The article discusses how newer hires will remain on annual contracts for the duration of their career and how teachers currently using the Professional Service Contract will have to forgo that contract if they wish to participate in the merit pay system. 


Brevard County teachers soon will learn how much impact they had — or, at least, how much impact a new state formula says they had — on the students they taught last school year.
For the first time, a complicated statistical formula is being used in teacher evaluations to help determine how well they’re doing their job.
The goal? State lawmakers want a quantifiable way to measure teachers in order to reward the best, target training toward those who need it and make it easier to identify educators falling short of expectations.
“There has to be some kind of accountability. We have had some disappointing teachers,” said Palm Bay resident Jean Beck, whose daughter is a junior at Bayside High. But she added: “They’ve been the exception rather than the rule.”
The Value Added Model calculates how a student is expected to score on state tests such as the FCAT reading or math. The student’s predicted score is then compared against their actual score to determine the teacher’s effectiveness — or the teacher’s “value added.”
For many teachers, this new value-added, or VAM, formula is a source of concern, particularly because it will now make up just over one-third of their annual evaluation.
With data from more than a million students included in an elaborate web of sub-calculations, the formula is so complex that calculating it would be impractical, if not impossible, to do by hand. And until course-specific tests are developed, all VAM scores will use FCAT reading or math scores — even if educators teach other subjects or teach grades that don’t take the FCAT.
School leaders will take the VAM score and, together with other measures, such as how well teachers design lessons and relate to students and parents, give every educator one of four rankings: highly effective, effective, needs improvement and unsatisfactory.


My biggest question is about funding. Many districts have not provided the menial step increases in the past few years because of the lack of funding. If districts do not have the funding to do this, how will they be able to fund the permanent salary increases this new merit pay system promises? I prefer to call this system the "merit no-pay" program.


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