Florida’s Released Albeit “Flawed” VAM Data

The Florida Times-Union’s Lead Op-Ed Letter on Monday was about why the value-added data recently released by the Florida Department of Education has, at best, made it “clearer than ever that the data is meaningless,” made even more unfortunate by the nearly four years and millions of dollars (including human resource dollars) spent on perfecting the state’s VAM and its advanced-as-accurate estimates.

In the letter, Andy Ford who is the current president of the Florida Education Association (yes, the union), writes, in sum and among other key points:

  • “The lists released by the DOE are a confusing mess.”
  • “Throughout the state, teachers who have been honored as among the best in their districts received low VAM marks.”
  • “Band teachers, physical education teachers and guidance counselors received VAM ratings despite not teaching subjects that are tested.”
  • “Teachers who worked at their schools for a few weeks received VAM scores as did teachers who retired three years ago.”
  • “A given teacher may appear to have differential effectiveness from class to class, from year to year and from test to test. Ratings are most unstable at the upper and lower ends where the ratings are most likely to be used to determine high or low levels of effectiveness…Most researchers agree that VAM is not appropriate as a primary measure for evaluating individual teachers. Reviews of research on value-added methods have concluded that they are too unstable and too vulnerable to many sources of error to be used for teacher evaluation.”

“Once again the state of Florida has proven that it puts test scores above everything else in public education. And once again it provided false data that misleads more than informs…When will our political leaders and the DOE stop chasing these flawed data models and begin listening to the teachers, education staff professionals, administrators and parents of Florida?”

The union “fully supports teacher accountability. But assessments of teachers, like assessments of students, must be valid, transparent and multi-faceted. These value-added model calculations are none of these.”

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