Dan Bennett is vice president of the Brevard Teachers Union. The following is a letter to the editor he penned to FloridaToday:
Anyone confused by the teacher evaluation system? For decades, school reformers have mined FCAT data in different ways to get different results.
To figure school grades, the state looks at a percentage of students on grade level or making learning gains. But then to figure AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) the feds splice out the same data by ethnicity to make sure every subgroup of students is passing.
Yes, there were instances where the state system assigned an A, while the national system labeled the same school as failing. Now we have teacher evaluations where the state assigns a projection for each student’s FCAT score. Factors like special education status, scheduling, and attendance adjust the individualized projection and a teacher gets either credit or blame for the student meeting or missing the projection.
The creation of the projection is the basis of the VAM (Value Added Model). At best, VAM is hard to verify. At worst, it is a pseudo-science. It certainly has nothing to do with the school grade.
All of this leads to public confusion about what is going on in schools. Just know that teachers are always there for the kids, not for the FCAT, VAM or other acronyms
It was always an insane idea to believe one could measure teacher effectiveness with test data. Republican legislators bought in because Jeb Bush and Michelle Rhee told them it was the thing to do. The two rock education rock stars were at the pinnacle of their influence at the time of SB6’s veto by Charlie Crist. The stars of Bush and Rhee have since faded. Charlie Crist proved to be right and he could be Florida’s next governor. Meanwhile those Florida republican legislators plan to again tweak the insanity that is Florida’s teacher evaluation system next month.