I received a letter from a teacher in Florida. He explains how the evaluation system works and why it is absurd:
Dear Florida Parents,
I want to call your attention to a serious and destructive policy that will have dire consequences for your children. Due to Florida’s ill-conceived merit pay evaluation system, your children may be subjected to inferior teaching.
Although Governor Scott proclaimed, “The teachers that are the most effective are the teachers that are going to do well.” These sound bites are a far stretch from what is actually occurring with this evaluation system.
As you probably know, the merit pay system bases one-half of a teacher’s evaluation on standardized test scores. If you want your children to have highly-effective teachers, understand this is not the way to accomplish this goal. Even if you agree that this is a fair evaluation system, I want you to understand that this is not what is happening. The truth is teachers are being evaluated based on students that they do not teach and sometimes not even on the students theydo teach. Does that sound like a system in which you’ll know which teachers are the best?
Let me explain how this system played out for me this year. I teach a gifted enrichment class for four elementary schools. Each day one grade level of students is bused to my center school. As a teacher outside the “regular” classroom, no district official was even able to tell me which tests my evaluation was tied too. That’s right; I taught a whole year and didn’t know how I would be evaluated. Towards the end of the year, I inferred my evaluation would be based on students’ FCAT scores; however, I quickly learned that only about 10 out 80 of my students would be counted! Why you ask? The DOE, which we are relying on to use a VAM equation only mathematicians can understand, could not figure out how to include my students who were bused to my center school. I tried to correct the measure with my district and union; however, there was no recourse. I was told “the next time around the state would fix it.” This year, my score will be based on the tests of just over 10% of my students. Once again I ask you, “Does that sound like a system in which you’ll know which teachers are the best?
The lunacy of this system does not stop there. My evaluation will be based on the performance of students I did not even teach! As part of my evaluation, groups of teachers were formed and given a list of some of the school’s lowest performing students. These students were tied to our evaluation scores, and our charge was to bring their test scores up. I pride myself on being a team player, but to determine my effectiveness as a teacher based on students I do not teach is not what this system was intended to do. No time was provided to work with these students. Somehow we were supposed to make time to mentor and tutor these kids. In essence, I was to spend my time working with the lowest students instead of dedicating myself to my giftedstudents. Even more preposterous is that my evaluation will be based on the performance of astudent who never set foot on my school’s campus this year. Does that sound like a system in which you’ll know which teachers are the best?
I commend your efforts to hold the Florida Department of Education accountable for policies that are ill suited for our state’s children. You called the DOE out on the FCAT Writes debacle and started a serious conversation with our misguided politicians. I call on you again to defend the best interest of your children. Demand that the merit pay system is repealed and replaced with a system that truly identifies effective teachers.
A concerned teacher