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Pinellas proposes major changes to unpopular teacher evaluations



Pinellas County Schools is considering a new system of evaluating teachers that would minimize the impact of the controversial "VAM score." Under the proposal, the student performance factor that makes up half of most teachers' evaluations would be measured by five different assessments, rather than just the VAM (value-added model) score.

The other four, per the proposal, would be:

1) tests, likely every week, to measure day-to-day instruction

2) end-of-unit tests, likely every four to six weeks

3) student surveys

4) end-of-course assessments

Superintendent Michael Grego emphasized at a school board workshop Thursday that nothing is set in stone. Pinellas is considering running this proposal through Learning Sciences International, an organization also looking to work with Orange County. If Pinellas moves forward, the pilot study would begin at a sampling of elementary, middle and high schools this fall.

The value-added model, nicknamed VAM, is a state formula that tries to measure teaching quality based on students' FCAT scores. But it's been heavily criticized by teachers, administrators, and local and state officials who doubt that VAM truly measures what it claims to. Many teachers are frustrated that they receive "schoolwide VAM scores" that sometimes have nothing to do with the children in their classrooms.

"You know one of our frustrations right now is that VAM, for many of them, is not within their control to influence," said Lisa Grant, the director of professional development for Pinellas.

Kim Black, the president of the Pinellas teachers union, said she had many questions but was excited about the possibility of moving toward multiple measures of student growth.

"Right now teachers feel that so much is out of their control. It's developing a high level of frustration and burnout," Black said.

The hope is that teachers would get "real-time" feedback on their instruction and be able to make changes mid-year, rather than simply getting a VAM score after the school year has ended.

School officials declined to estimate the cost of the proposed changes. Grant said the system would not increase the amount of testing put upon children, because teachers are already giving out these assessments. However, teachers would need to be using the same tests, so there are some details to work out there.

Grego assured the school board that the changes would be legal under Florida's testing requirements. Florida always allowed districts to use measures other than VAM in conjunction with it, Grego said. "We didn't have any other measures, so we had to rely on the VAM," Grego said.

This is a developing story and may be updated.

[Last modified: Thursday, February 21, 2013 2:57pm]


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