Fort Myers News-Press: For Teachers, VAM Doesn’t Add Up


From the editors of the News-Press:

Think back to a schoolteacher who had a positive impact on your life. Chances are, your choice wasn’t based on explanations of quadratic equations or whether she helped advance your reading skills a full grade level.

Certainly, teachers teach. But great teachers also inspire students to look beyond the lesson plan, to see learning as adventure, not a chore.

Yet, Florida continues to test, teach to the tests and then evaluate students, teachers and schools based on those tests. The result is seldom pretty.

This week, after a legal fight with the Florida Times-Union, the state was compelled to release data related to the  scores of individual teachers. The VAM scores are based on student achievement, with a complicated formula considering factors that might affect students’ test scores.

But the value-added model is so complex that both the state and Florida’s largest teacher’s union cautioned parents against using it to draw any meaningful conclusions.

Kathy Hebda, chief of staff with the state Department of Education, told reporters during a conference call that the VAM scores “in isolation can lead to misunderstandings about a teacher’s overall performance.”

Scathing Purple Musings took Hebda to task last week for her flip-flop on VAM, but just for trips and giggles, let’s do what she say not to do with her quote. If VAM scores  “in isolation can lead to misunderstandings about a teacher’s overall performance, ”how in the  wild world of sports can they serve as 50 percent of their evaluation and moreover, the standard for merit pay?

Meanwhile, Florida republican legislators are looking to  indulge in their voucher and charter school fetishes this month. Pay no attention to that little he test-dominated teacher evaluation system they rammed home in 2011 that has aroused the dormant VAM Scam virus.

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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