Has Top FLDOE Numbers Cruncher Changed Her Tune On VAM?

The Florida Department of Education vigorously opposed the release of controversial VAM data. FlaglerLive quotes chief of staff Kathy Hebda on the release:

Monday, the Department of Education released masses of data in compliance with the court order, but it did so under protest.

“Because these data are intended to be used in conjunction with other information about classroom practice to form a complete evaluation, looking at this information in isolation can lead to misunderstandings about an individual teacher’s overall performance,” Kathy Hebda, chief of staff at the Department of Education, said Monday.

But is Hebda now singing from a different sheet of music? One year ago, Hebda testified before the state BOE after taking a look at VAM data and had a different take. Consider this from a February 2013 StateImpact story from John O’Connor:

State officials also say their analysis also shows the formula properly accounts for factors such as whether a student is learning.

As the percentage of those students increases or decreases, there was no correlation to value-added scores rising or falling. That means teachers who have more students learning English are not at a disadvantage to a teacher who has a room full of native English speakers.

The same was true no matter what grade taught, the percentage of gifted students, the percentage of students with disability, the percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunch or the racial makeup of the class.

“That means the model did its job,” Kathy Hebda with the Florida Department of Education staffer told the board.

“Why would they select something that looks so complicated with this long mathematical formula? Because it actually does level the playing field.  It accounts for a lot of things that affect student learning besides the teacher.”

Hebda made similar claims a month before in a hearing before Florida legislators. Scathing Purple Musings quoted the Miami Herald in January 2013:

A hotly debated 2011 law that created the evaluation system prohibits students’ race, ethnicity, socio-economic status and gender from being considered in the value-added model, but it doesn’t really matter, said Deputy Chancellor for Educator Quality Kathy Hebda.

Hebda presented charts to the House K-12 Education Subcommittee that show almost zero correlation between teachers’ evaluation scores and the percentages of their students who are poor, nonwhite, gifted, disabled or English language learners. Teachers similarly didn’t get any advantage or disadvantage based on what grade levels they teach.

“Those things didn’t seem to factor in,” Hebda said. “You can’t tell for a teacher’s classroom by the way the value-added scores turned out whether she had zero percent students on free and reduced price lunch or 100 percent.”

Hebda’s 2013 testimony in two public hearings was intended to assure policymakers that everything was just swell with VAM as an affirmation that the merit pay provision of the 2011 Student Success Act (SB736) was going to be ready for prime time in the scheduled 2015 roll-out. No wonder the FLDOE didn’t want actual VAM date released as data completely contradicts Hebda’s assurances that “the model did its job.”


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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2 Responses to Has Top FLDOE Numbers Cruncher Changed Her Tune On VAM?

  1. kafkateach says:

    I can tell you that as a teacher of gifted students my VAM was -%149. Most of the other teachers at my school with negative VAMs were also teachers of the gifted (and very well respected teachers I might add). I hope now that the data was released publicly the FEA hires a mathematician that will produce a report that directly contradicts Hebda.

  2. Pingback: Gosh Damn! That’s a Bad VAM! | kafkateach

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