Teachers upset with newly released appraisals


Kelly Moore, a media specialist at Littlewood Elementary School, works after school on Tuesday.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 10:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 10:13 a.m.

Kelly Moore has students from all grades pass through her library.

Facts

Things to know

-- The evaluations teachers received Friday are preliminary. The final numbers are due in January, and district officials have said they are rerunning the data to find ways to improve the evaluations.
-- The state-mandated value-added model, which is attached to progress from a student's FCAT scores from one year to the next, factored into 40 percent of a teacher's appraisal this year.

As a media specialist at Littlewood Elementary, she does not prepare students for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Yet students' performance on the statewide assessment still affected her teacher evaluation for the 2011-2012 school year, which determined she "needs improvement."



"Needs improvement is like an F," she said.

Teachers across Alachua County have expressed concern about the preliminary evaluations after they received the appraisals Friday.

Many teachers have taken issue with the use of the value-added model, or VAM, which uses student test scores and accounts for 40 percent of the appraisal.

Teachers and union officials have questioned the validity of using the data the way the data is being used, particularly the way teachers who do not teach FCAT grades are evaluated.

By state law, VAM data has to be used in calculating a teacher's final appraisal. The model is intended to determine whether a teacher added any value or knowledge to a student through a school year.

While teachers are stirring over the topic, district officials are working to revise the methodology before the final numbers are submitted in January.

Karen McCann, president of the Alachua County Education Association, said she has received hundreds of emails and phone calls from distraught teachers.

Many expressed concern about job security, as state law holds that if they are rated unsatisfactory two consecutive years or two out of three years, they may be placed on an annual contract and possibly terminated.

Irby Elementary School's Teacher of the Year Kim Cook took to Facebook to show her displeasure with her unsatisfactory appraisal.

She posted a photo of her holding a sign that reads "Unsatisfactory?" while standing in front of her school's sign, which touts her as Teacher of the Year.

Superintendent Dan Boyd said Tuesday that teachers need not worry because the district is working to run the data in other ways that will produce better results for teachers, adding that he felt the initial results were a result of poor planning by the state.

"This is another half-baked scheme out of Tallahassee affecting the teacher profession," he said.

At Tuesday night's board meeting, Boyd publicly offered an apology to teachers for the stress and pledged to find a way to run the data in a way that will improve many evaluations and hurt none.

At Tuesday night's School Board meeting, Cook told the board she was pleased to hear the district's plan to make revisions but questioned why officials didn't see this coming.

"Why couldn't this have been done earlier?" she asked.

A teacher's appraisal is composed of three parts. The principal observes the teacher and assigns a grade that ranges from highly effective to unsatisfactory. This accounts for 40 percent of the overall appraisal.

For the lesson study, a group of teachers devises a lesson and critiques its effectiveness. This counts for 20 percent of the appraisal.

The last component is the value-added model score, which is tied to students' performance on the FCAT. It is 40 percent of the overall evaluation.

Kathy Hebda, deputy chancellor for educator quality for the Florida Department of Education, stood by VAM and said the implementation of the model was designed so that it would improve after the first year.

"There is no state out there that launches a new state evaluation system and it's perfect the first time," she said.

She said, according to data run by the state, teachers across the state had an equal chance of receiving a high or low VAM score.

Districts had the responsibility to address the issue of what to do with teachers who do not teach students who take the FCAT. In Alachua County, officials decided last year to use schools' reading VAM data to factor into the evaluation for teachers of non-FCAT students.

Deputy Superintendent Sandy Hollinger said the district made this decision because of the importance of reading in all other subjects. Now, she said the district is looking at its options for revision.

"What we're looking at is some statistical ways to be in compliance with the law," she said.

She emphasized that the district fully supports accountability, but it does not support the current implementation of the VAM.

McCann echoed Hollinger.

"Yes, we want accountability," she said. "It's just an unfair system."


Contact Joey Flechas at 338-3166 or joey.flechas@gvillesun.com.

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