FEA questioning new value-added model evaluation system

Margaret Goodwin says she received high marks from all five principals she's worked for during 39 years, yet Florida's new evaluation system gave her a low rating of "needs improvement." The third-grade teacher at St. Petersburg's Westgate Elementary School on Tuesday said the system's value-added model, or VAM, is demoralizing and unfair. It's based on student test scores, but Goodwin said her evaluation was based on exams taken by students she didn't teach. "The reality is the value-added model has nothing at all to do with adding, nor does it have anything to do with my proficiency as a teacher," Goodwin said. She was one of several teachers who spoke at a news conference called by the Florida Education Association to support the teachers union's call to put the evaluation plan on hold. Republican legislative leaders and a Department of Education official, though, defended the system as being necessary to hold teachers accountable for student performance. Goodwin said all kindergarten through third-grade teachers at her school received the same schoolwide VAM rating of 11.27 out of 50 possible points based on Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores of fourth- and fifth-graders because their own pupils don't take the FCAT. Only 35,000 of 225,000 teach FCAT-tested grades and subjects that are used in the evaluation system: reading, writing and math. In some cases teachers said their own students' tests were not used in their evaluations. The teachers also said the system penalizes those who work at struggling schools and that results still aren't all in for the last school year -- rendering those that have been delivered not useful for making personnel, pay and career decisions. They also said the VAM formula is untested, not supported by research and too complex. Union President Andy Ford unsuccessfully appealed to Gov. Rick Scott to suspend the evaluation system in a Nov. 5 letter. The union now plans to appeal to the Legislature to revise the law it passed last year requiring VAM-based evaluations. Those evaluations will be used to determine which teachers should be retained and which ones should get merit pay when the system is fully effective in three years. The association also has filed a lawsuit challenging the law's constitutionality. State Senate President Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican and former Okaloosa County school superintendent, was dismissive of the union's complaints. "I'm shocked, shocked that a union doesn't want to have their members evaluated on the basis of performance," Gaetz said. Ford said teachers support a fair, accurate and reliable performance-based evaluation but that Florida's system "isn't it." House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said his chamber is willing to examine the union's criticisms, but added that anything diluting "the amount of accountability or measurement" would have little chance of passing. Some complaints raised by the teachers are the result of choices made by local school districts, said Kathy Hebda, the state's deputy K-12 chancellor for educator quality. Regardless of the process or options, Nathalie Faulk, was unhappy with her evaluation. She said 88 percent to 93 percent of her Yulee High School biology and French students passed their end-of-course tests, but the VAM formula cut the rate to just 54 percent. "Value-added model?" Faulk asked. "Perhaps more of a value-subtracted model."


“I have requested the governor place a moratorium on the Value-Added Model until there is clear convincing research on proven merits of VAM to improve student learning and teaching practices,” Ford said Tuesday. “I have serious reservations about the validity of this process,” said Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee. “We have too many examples throughout Florida of what we know to be highly effective teachers on this particular model being rated far, far less than highly effective.” The idea behind SB 736 was to improve academic performance by making sure students had top-notch teachers. Supporters argued during legislative debate that taking three years to phase in the new regulations would give the state ample time to fix problems if they developed. Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland, chaired a Pre-K-12 education subcommittee during the 2011 session. “We don’t have time to pause. If you’re standing still you’re moving backwards,” Simmons said Tuesday. “We’re moving forward and we’ll take into consideration what the FEA has to say. If there are any kinds of deficiencies in any of the models I think you will find the Senate addressing it.”


"The reality is that the value-added model has nothing at all … to do with my proficiency as a teacher," said Goodwin, who teaches at St. Petersburg's Westgate Elementary and was ranked "needs improvement." FEA President Andy Ford said the new system "is not ready for prime time" and that Scott or lawmakers should pause the system until it can be overhauled. Under a state law approved by the Legislature in 2011, teachers could see their pay and ability to keep their job affected by the numbers within three years. "Florida would rather be first than get it right, and it's affecting real people's lives at this point," Ford said.





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