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Florida teachers continue campaign against value-added evaluations

The Florida Education Association on Tuesday kept up its full-court press on state leaders to back away from value-added calculations in teacher evaluations. The union conducted a news conference at which teachers talked about their concerns in using student test results crunched through VAM to count for half their performance reviews.

FEA president Andy Ford called upon Gov. Rick Scott to delay implementation of the new evaluation system, imposed two sessions ago in Senate Bill 736 -- the first bill Scott signed into law. Scott has not responded. So the teachers continue to portray the evaluations as "not ready for prime time."

Dawn Chapman, president of the St. Johns teachers union, said her organization supports education accountability. But she said the evaluation system was "extremely flawed, had no input from educators, and as a result has not produced a fair evaluation process." Read on for her full remarks. Then let us know what you think.

Good morning. My name is Dawn Chapman and I am a teacher and the President of the St. Johns Education Association and I am proud to say that the St. Johns School District is the number #1 performing county in the State of Florida for the past four years.

As President of the St. Johns Education Association I have become all too familiar with the concerns, confusion and reservations regarding the implementation of the value added model, which we call VAM, and the impact it has created with the teachers of the St. Johns School District.

For the record – St. Johns teachers, as well as all teachers, strongly support having an accountability system in place; however it needs to be a system that is fair, reliable, and educationally sound.

The current system under SB736 is extremely flawed, had no input from educators, and as a result has not produced a fair evaluation process.

There are a number of inaccuracies in the VAM scores. For example:

VAM scores are not an educationally sound measurement and should not be used to determine the outcome of teacher evaluations and quite possibly whether or not a teacher may stay employed.

Districts are required to set ranges countywide even though the calculation is computed within the school, forcing an apples-to-oranges comparison

The use of student rosters that were not verified. Teachers in our county found students included on their personal VAM scores that they never taught and students they did teach excluded from their scores. How can the overall score be considered valid when the rosters are incorrect?

Other teachers like guidance counselors, deans, K-3 teachers, literacy coaches, etc… had to base 50% of their evaluation on the school wide scores. In fact, in many cases these teachers never met or taught the students who their scores are based on. There is no direct correlation between the school score and the individual teacher performance.

Our district wide teacher of the year was also negatively impacted from school wide VAM scores. She had "highly effective" observable scores and for the previous two years had highly effective VAM scores, but because she was now the literacy coach she was required to evaluated on school scores. The school wide VAM scores brought her evaluation down to being an "effective" teacher. How can the district wide teacher of the year in the number one district be rated as just "effective"?

It is evident that the VAM scores caused her to have an invalid summative score. Discrepancies such as these may not encourage our highly effective teachers to take leadership roles in our schools.

The entire VAM formula is impossible to decipher and difficult for teachers to challenge the data that was submitted, especially when the DOE did not send the VAM scores back within the 90-day statutory deadline.The tardiness of the DOE in providing that data eliminated any chance for teachers to amend their scores or adjust their class rosters from the past three years. For this failure alone, VAM scores should not be included in our teachers' evaluations.

This year's VAM scores should be used only for purposes of discussion and professional development. They should not be used in conjunction with teacher evaluations until there is an evaluation in place that is clearly defined, directly connects with teacher performance, and the data returned from the DOE is given in a timely manner.

It is vitally important that legislators realize that they need to go back to the drawing board when it comes to evaluating teachers. It is crucial that a better accountability system is developed that includes input from key stakeholders – including teachers. We need a system that is fair, funded, educationally sound, and ultimately improves student success.