Florida VAM Scores: The Most Meaningless Teacher Evaluation Exercise Ever?

So writes Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post:

There are numerous problems with using VAM scores for high-stakes decisions, but in this particular release of data, the most obvious and perhaps the most egregious one is this: Some 70 percent of the Florida teachers received VAM scores based on test results from students they didn’t teach and/or in subjects they don’t teach.

Yes, you read that right: Teachers are being evaluated on students they didn’t teach and/or subjects they don’t teach. How can that be?

In subjects for which there are no standardized test — which is most of them — teachers are evaluated on school-wide averages. Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association, said that only about 30 percent of Florida public school teachers teach both students and subjects for which there are Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test exams.

Last April, seven teachers, along with the National Education Association and the Florida Education Association, filed a lawsuit challenging that evaluation system, arguing that it was unfair and violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clause of the Constitution. One of the seven was Kim Cook of Alachua, Fla., who, as this post explained, was evaluated at Irby Elementary, a K-2 school where she works and was named Teacher of the Year last December. Forty percent of her evaluation was based on test scores of students at another elementary school whom she never taught.

Then in the summer, the state legislature passed a bill making it illegal to evaluate teachers on standardized test scores of students they never taught. But, Ford said, the bill still allows teachers to be evaluated on students they may have in one class, but in a different subject. That means a social studies teacher can be graded on the reading test scores of his/her students. If you are trying to find the sense in that, quit trying.

That, Ford said in an interview, makes all of the scores “meaningless.” He’s got that right.

The real problem here is not the release of the scores — which unfortunately will be viewed by many as reflective of a teacher’s effectiveness when they really aren’t — but rather that the Florida Education Department actually calculates these scores and uses them in evaluations under the mistaken notion that they are useful assessment tools.

If this kind of meaningless exercise doesn’t prove the meaning of meaningless, tell me what does.

Strauss, one of the most widely read education writers in the nation, is no stranger to VAM. Her mocking condemnation of VAM in general, and the Florida way in particular is noteworthy.

The focus of outrage thus far has been on the editors of the Florida Times-Union who pursued the data. But the Times-Union is  doing a service to the state’s taxpayers as they are finding out what’s been sold to them by Rick Scott and republican legislators in passage of the Student Success Act (SB736) in 2011. What’s been delivered is an unreliable mess of crap that’s supposed to measure teacher effectiveness and serve as a standard for merit pay starting in 2015. It certainly doesn’t do the former and to assume it can fairly do the later is arrogant insanity.



About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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3 Responses to Florida VAM Scores: The Most Meaningless Teacher Evaluation Exercise Ever?

  1. 3D Learner says:

    Evaluating teachers on a subject they have nothing to do with is absurd. Value Added Measurements may well have value, but not if misused. Time to stop the lunacy and put VAMs into a pilot test

  2. In tomorrows Times Union they will print letters from Student’s First (Michelle Rhee’s group) and the Foundation for Florida’s Future (Jeb Bush’s) talking about how great VAM scores are.

    The Times Union is not some neutral party in this just trying to get the info out, no they are as ideologically driven as the two groups above.

  3. kafkateach says:

    As much as I dislike Rick Scott, I primarily blame Obama’s Race to the Top for VAM. They bribed states to include student test data in teacher evaluations and every state that won a RTTT grant has some form of VAM. If Obama didn’t provide the cash incentives and the guidelines, I doubt the Republicans would have come up with VAM on their own.

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