Time to Organize in Florida

A few weeks ago, a Florida reporter reached out to me for information about the nation’s value-added models (VAMs), but also as specific to the state of Florida. It seems that teachers in Florida were (and perhaps still are) being removed from teaching in Florida schools if their state-calculated, teacher-level VAM scores deemed them as teachers who “needed improvement” or were “unsatisfactory.”

More specifically, the state of Florida is using its state-level VAM to rate teachers’ VAM-based performance, using state exams in mathematics and language arts. If the teachers ultimately deemed in need of improvement or unsatisfactory teach in one of the state’s “turnaround” schools (i.e., a school that is required by the state to have a turnaround plan in place), those teachers are to be removed from the school and placed elsewhere. This is happening by state law, whereby the law dictates that no turnaround school may have a higher percentage of low value-added teachers than the district as a whole, which the state has apparently interpreted that to mean no low value-added teachers in these schools, at all.

Of course, some of the issues being raised throughout the state are not only about the VAMs themselves, as well as the teachers being displaced (e.g., two weeks or so after the school year resumed), but also about how all of this has caused other disruptions (e.g., students losing their teachers a few weeks after the beginning of the school year). Related, many principals have rejected these on-goings, expressly noting that they want to keep many if not most/all of the teachers being moved from their schools, as “valued” by them. I have also heard directly from a few Florida principals/school administrators about these same matters. See other articles about this here and here.

Hence, I’m writing this blog post to not only let others know about what is going on in Florida right now, despite the fact that the rest of the nation is (overall) taking some major steps back away from the uses (and abuses) of VAMs, especially in such high-stakes ways.

But I’m also writing this blog post to (hopefully) inspire those in Florida (including teachers, principals, etc.) to organize. Organize yourselves, perhaps with the assistance and guidance of your unions, professional organizations, legal groups (perhaps, also as affiliated), and the like. What is happening in Florida, as per state law, can very likely be legally challenged.

Overall, we (including many others in similar court cases in New Mexico, New York, and Texas) did quite well, overall, in the courts fighting the unjustifiable and indefensible uses of VAMs for similar purpose. Hence, I truly believe it is just a matter of time, with some organizing, that the teachers in Florida also realize some relief. There are also many of us out there who are more than ready and willing to help.

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