Monday, October 22, 2012

Some VAM Scores are In

Some districts are receiving results from Florida's new Value-Added Model for teacher evaluation. In this system, student performance on standardized tests will account for up to 50% of teachers' evaluations. Here's an excerpt from a story from the Tampa Bay Times

Geoffrey Robinson is a National Board certified teacher at Osceola High School in Pinellas County who says 60 percent of his upper-level calculus students last year tested so well they earned college credit.
But this week Robinson received his teacher evaluation, based on a controversial new formula being rolled out statewide.
He was shocked to see how poorly he scored in the "student achievement" portion: 10.63 out of 40.
He's not alone. Teachers all over Pinellashave received their scores, calculated by a new formula that confounds even math teachers. Hillsborough teachers also got their scores, though their situation is different due to participation in a grant program with its own evaluation rules. In Pasco, the scoring is on hold while the teachers union and the district figure out how to implement it.
In the past, school administrators evaluated their teachers. Even though Pinellas administrators spent months preparing brochures, handbooks, Web posts and workshops to explain the new system, some teachers are reacting with anguish.
"My percentage was a 57 out of 100, and that's being one of the top teachers in the state'' judged by student achievement scores, said Melanie Brock, an East Lake High School math teacher. "I know I'm good, I've been teaching for 19 years, I'm not stressing about that. But if I was new, I'd go home crying."
Florida is not yet using the VAM scores to determine raises, though it soon will. Schoolwide scores for teachers — though not individual grades — also will soon be available to parents.
But already, the demoralizing potential of the puzzling test is drawing ire from some in a profession that has seen much criticism and little in the way of pay increases in recent years. And many wonder if it will do anything to improve education.
The most controversial aspect of this system is how this impacts teachers who do not teach tested subjects. Teachers who teach third grade and under as well as elective teachers and several secondary level teachers (like calculus, history, etc.) will receive ratings based on either their students' performance on the FCAT Reading and Math exams or school-wide results in those subjects. Teachers who teach at multiple schools or teachers with instructional job titles who work in district offices will receive VAM scores based on whole-school results of the schools where they teach and whole-district performance, respectively. 

The Florida Legislature rushed the "Student Success Act" through the legislative process without any regard to effective implementation. The same politicians who decry how the Affordable Care Act sailed through Congress without much scrutiny did the same thing with education in Florida. Given that such flawed education policies seem to be inevitable nowadays, it would have been more wise to phase in the implementation of the law by giving districts time to create subject area exams and building supporting data before implementing VAM. That way, at least teachers would be judged based on the subjects they actually teach. 

At the end of the day, judging teachers by student performance on standardized tests is not the most valid method of evaluating teachers. However, if the government is going to insist that we do it anyway, then it should at least implement the laws in a reasonable manner.

No comments:

Post a Comment