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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pinellas officials question Florida's teacher evaluation system



From Sunday's Tampa Bay Times

When the Florida Legislature moved to base teacher evaluations on their students' FCAT score growth, it ran into a complication: Many teachers don't have students who take the test. So after calculating a score for each teacher under the "value-added model", or VAM, state-hired analysts aggregated them into a "schoolwide VAM score."

In the process, they invented a new set of numbers designed to measure the quality of teaching at a school. These numbers play an outsized role in the evaluations of thousands of teachers who don't have FCAT test-takers, comprising 40 to 50 percent of their ratings.

But a Tampa Bay Times analysis suggests that schoolwide VAM scores often don't match up with other state-driven measures of schools' success. Think Tarpon Springs High, Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle and Palm Harbor University High — all A schools with VAM scores suggesting teaching isn't what it should be.

Last week, Florida Senate President Don Gaetz questioned whether the evaluation system should be overhauled. Pinellas has declined to use the schoolwide numbers to make changes at the schools. Even state officials who distribute the scores can't fully explain how they should be used.

If schoolwide VAM scores are accurate measures of teaching, why is no one eager to make much hay over them? And if they're not, why are they being used so heavily in evaluations?

Read the rest of the story by reporter Lisa Gartner here.

[Last modified: Monday, February 4, 2013 10:04am]


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