Earlier this week, Florida released the VAM scores of its teachers. Disturbing to say the least. The Florida Times-Union released links to teacher VAM data for the past two years. There are 116,723 teachers listed in the data base. I am not posting the link here, but it is out there.
A VAM score is a number that is derived using a covariate adjustment equation (Figure 1). The idea is to evaluate teachers using student test scores. In the Florida VAM big data release, VAM scores are reported for teachers who taught math and reading, and for those that didn’t teach math or reading. They reported next to each teacher’s name, a score that indicates the learning gains students made above or below what they were expected to learn (based on earlier performance, with OTHER teachers).
Here is equation used to figure teachers’ “value added effect.”
If you are interested here is the meaning of the equation.
Gobbledygook in Florida
Gobbledygook is nonsense, gibberish, balderdash, rubbish, or if you prefer garbage.
When you step back and think about your experience as a teacher you have been insulted by the antics of the Florida officials who financially supported and then hired guns to design and carry out the Florida VAM model, which in my estimation is Gobbledygook.
The reports that we read in the media do not go into any detail about how teacher VAM scores are determined. If the public really knew what school districts were doing to their children’s teachers, they would be furious.
Parents know that their child’s knowledge of science or history is not a number that emerges from a test given once a year. Parents also know that their children’s teachers should not be judged by a single numbers, especially when what goes into making the number is not only spurious, but lacks the credibility of the education research community.
It is true that you can go to an 80 page document (Florida Value-Added Model Technical Report), and read through the details of the VAM model that is used on teachers. Upon reading the paper, I became further outraged at the ends powerful officials will go to drum up a system that does not contribute one iota to the improvement of the work of professional teachers, or to the improvement of learning among students. What are they think?
Even the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is opposed to the release of the Florida VAM scores. But, its a bit late. They contributed millions of dollars to finance the development of VAM. Others have reported that the scores of 70% of the teachers were based on the scores of students they didn’t teach (See Valerie Strauss’s Blog).
The use of VAM to evaluate teacher’s is flawed, unreliable and invalid. To post scores based on “junk” science, is preposterous.
Chris Guerrieri Speaks about VAM
Finally, I want to include what Chris Guerrieri, a teacher and blogger in Florida has to say about VAM scores being released in his state. In his recent blog post, he quoted two Florida superintendents. Joseph Joyner, superintendent of a high scoring district said this:
I cannot express enough, my disappointment in the decision to publish VAM data, in any form. The push to create simplicity (test scores) out of an inherently complex process (teaching) is rooted, in my opinion, in the desire of media and policy makers to create lists with the ultimate goal of allowing for judgment In the end, we continue to treat teachers like sheep, being herded into a gate to have a number pinned to their ear. I question this treatment of professionals as we owe the success of our state and nation to great teachers, and the lack of respect and loss of dignity is appalling. (Guerrieri, Chris. Chris Guerrieri’s Education Matters. The Real Reason the FLDOE Fought the Release of VAM Data., 28 Feb. 2014. Web. 28 Feb. 2014.)
Guerrieri has written extensively not only about VAM, but other issues on Florida education. He suggests, that even though the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) fought having the scores released, the reason was to protect themselves from the bad policy that they promoted. The release of the scores would embarrass the FLDOE. Here is how he put it:
Finally how could any reasonable education body think it was good policy to score teachers on subjects and or students they did not teach? It is unexplainable and indefensible but Florida’s depart of education did it anyway. I believe that, not because they were concerned about the public only getting half the picture and not because they were concerned about destroying teachers morale is why they fought to keep VAM scores from the public.When the scores were released at first I was outraged. I believe the FLDOE who is an operative of the privatization agenda wants people only to get half the picture and them to take things out of context and for some sadly they will be that case. But after a few days of reflection I am glad they released the scores because now it will show those paying attention how incompetent the FLDOE, the commissioner and the State Board of Education are. (Guerrieri, Chris. Chris Guerrieri’s Education Matters. The Real Reason the FLDOE Fought the Release of VAM Data., 28 Feb. 2014. Web. 28 Feb. 2014.)
What is your opinion on the use and publishing of teacher VAM scores in Florida?