Six teachers with good overall teacher evaluations must be transferred from Greco Middle School in Hillsborough. The school has had a ‘D’ grade for two years. It is one of those HB7069 things. Teachers at the school whose value added (VAM) scores for their students were not high enough were targeted by the State of Florida. How can this happen? The Florida Department of Education website says that VAM scores are not mandatory….or are they?
Check out the State Board of Education rules for low performing schools. Even though teachers may be rated as effective or highly effective using the district evaluation systems (that also must include student achievement growth measures), if their students’ achievement gain scores are below what similar students across the state gain based on the state VAM scores alone, those teachers must be removed from the school.
What are these VAM scores? They indicate the growth of student achievement scores on the English Language Arts and Math scores from grades 4 through 8, plus Algebra I. Three year average scores of all students in the state are calculated and adjusted by differences in school characteristics and student performance. Average scores for similar groups of students and schools statewide are compared to each teacher’s student scores. These VAM scores are calculated for about one third of Florida’s teachers. Evaluations for the other teachers must include some measure of student growth, either VAM or other locally determined measures of achievement. Local districts determine how best to evaluate their teachers.
The outcry by the American Statistical Association and others that VAM scores alone are not a valid measure of teacher effectiveness was heard in Tallahassee. VAM scores use became optional for district teacher evaluations even though they must include some measures of student progress. Maybe the State Board of Education was not listening. They still make decisions about teachers’ futures based on invalid VAM scores. Let me give you an example of how unfair this is. A teacher here was removed from a low performing school who had an ‘highly effective’ rating. Her ‘mistake’ was to take over a classroom mid year when the district had been unable to fill an empty slot created by the illness of the assigned teacher. The class had several long term substitute teachers….not good for anyone whether teacher or student. The class did not score well on the state assessment. The good teacher who stepped in to help was blamed. We may see more of these cases as the teacher shortage increases.