Rebekah Ray responded to another Florida teacher who complained the changes by the State Legislature has destroyed the promises made to him when he became a teacher. It’s method of evaluating teachers is one of the worst in the nation. If they don’t teach reading or math in grades 3-8, they are assigned ratings for students they never taught in subjects they never taught.

Ray writes:

I would not sign that evaluation. The first year Florida started its detrimental evaluation system I taught all 11th grade classes. I was asked to meet with the principal and the AP of curriculum (my evaluator) and was told I was a “Needs Improvement Teacher”. I was devastated because prior to that year, I had always received outstanding evaluations. I was also an NBCT teacher. Additionally, for that first year of the insane evaluation system, all teachers on campus who did not teach 9th and 10th grade were supposed to receive the school-wide VAM. I pointed out that I should have received the SW VAM scores because I taught all 11th grade students. The AP looked at me and said, “No, you have one 10th grade class.” At that point, my devil horns came out, and I asked for specific data that they based their scoring on. The principal called the district office and spoke to the one mathematician who did the calculations for each teacher. He stated that I had received that score because over the course of three years of teaching, nine of my students did not pass the FCAT re-takes. I asked, “What about the 300 other students who had passed; don’t they count?” They did not have a clue how to respond. I refused to accept their evaluation and did not sign it. The principal told me to send him an email once I had time to think about the situation, so I did. I asked for all sorts of data on those nine specific students: When did they enroll in my class?; How many absences did they have?; Are they on free or reduced lunch?… and lots more data. I received no response, but the a-holes gave me the SW VAM, and the next year, they moved me to 10th grade in an effort to set me up for failure. At the end of that year, I met with my evaluator to sign my evaluation, and she commented, “You are one of those teachers.” My defense mechanism immediately went into high gear, and I asked, “What does that mean?” She replied, “You are responsible for our A+ rating.” I had no idea because I’m that rebellious teacher who refuses to look at data; I look at the students in front of me and tell them point blank, “I will never treat you like a data point; I will treat you as a human being, and you will work harder in this English class than any other ones you have been in, and you will pass that stupid state test with no problem!!” Then I never mention the test again until a month before its administration. (I also ignore the scripted common core curriculum). Ergo, my students excelled, and for consecutive years, I earned perfect VAM scores (unbeknownst to me). I only learned about it because the department chair told me. (Again, I rarely look at the data; I always look at the child). My next evaluator consistently awarded me with high scores such as 99/100. The following year a new evaluator came on board, an academic with a doctorate in Reading, but zero classroom experience. She tried to lower my rating, but I refused to sign until she changed her scores, explaining, “Nothing has changed; I cannot help that you never came to my classroom to observe those specific activities, and I still have perfect VAM scores, so why do you think it’s okay to lower my score in categories I have always been rated as Highly Effective?” She changed my scores both years she evaluated me.

The tragedy of it all is that I had to consistently fight to get what was rightfully mine from the outset. No teacher should have to suffer such denigration and demoralization at the hands of administrators who have been given district and state directives to assign lower scores because “Too many of your teachers are being rated as ‘Highly Effective’”.

I have five years before I can retire, but my heart is no longer in it, so I will be leaving this profession and the children who I dearly love teaching. The stress that comes with teaching has taken a massive toll on my health, and I am currently on an LOA because of it. (Yes, I also had to fight for my FMLA benefit; it’s always a fight, with the district and admin on one side, and the teachers on the opposite side). It’s not supposed to be that way; we are all supposed to be on the same side, but it’s not like that here.

I have two pieces of advice for anyone thinking of going into education: 1. Don’t do it!! 2. If you really believe it is your true calling, then go straight through and get your masters degree; subsequent to that, teach in the U.S. for a minimum of three years, so you can get some experience; apply to teach overseas where your efforts will be appreciated and rewarded. Most of all, you will be respected and honored everywhere else in the world because you are a teacher.