From the Current, by James Call
The Florida Education Association wants a moratorium, a timeout, a pause in the implementation of SB 736, also known as the Student Success Act of 2011. It was the first bill Gov. Rick Scott signed into law and it ties teachers’ raises to how their students perform in the classroom.
SB 736 also eliminated multi-year contracts and tenure for public school teachers.
FEA President Andy Ford this month wrote Scott to draw attention to what he called a deeply flawed methodology used to evaluate teachers. Ford cited a Sept. 28 email sent by the Department of Education’s director of Research and Analysis in Educator Performance to school districts that says a teacher’s evaluation score “… may include students who should not be attributed to the teacher or may be missing students.”
Florida adopted a Value-Added Model, a mathematic calculation assigning a number to reflect a teacher’s effectiveness. The DOE’s September email advised districts about problems with the VAM and concluded “… a teacher’s score may not be an accurate reflection of his/her performance due to the inclusion/exclusion of students.”
“I have requested the governor place a moratorium on the Value-Added Model until there is clear convincing research on proven merits of VAM to improve student learning and teaching practices,” Ford said Tuesday.
Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart responded to Ford’s letter stating that FEA played a role in developing a method to measure student growth and acknowledged that it is possible that there may be isolated cases where the data is incorrect. Stewart also stated that the correspondence from DOE to the districts should not be interpreted as a lack of confidence in the process or the model (VAM).
Starting in 2014, the VAM will be part of the equation used to evaluate a teacher’s performance as highly effective, effective, needs improvement or unsatisfactory. Three years of student test scores will make up 50 percent of the rating that would then indicate whether the teacher gets a raise.
“I have serious reservations about the validity of this process,” said Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee. “We have too many examples throughout Florida of what we know to be highly effective teachers on this particular model being rated far, far less than highly effective.”
The idea behind SB 736 was to improve academic performance by making sure students had top-notch teachers. Supporters argued during legislative debate that taking three years to phase in the new regulations would give the state ample time to fix problems if they developed. Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland, chaired a Pre-K-12 education subcommittee during the 2011 session.
“We don’t have time to pause. If you’re standing still you’re moving backwards,” Simmons said Tuesday. “We’re moving forward and we’ll take into consideration what the FEA has to say. If there are any kinds of deficiencies in any of the models I think you will find the Senate addressing it.”