New Rules for Teacher Evaluation Issued by State Ed Board

From the Tampa Bay Times / July 23, 2015:

Florida Board of Education sets new rules for many teacher evaluations

Through 2014-15, Florida school district had the ability to set teacher evaluation ratings the student performance results they received.

That flexibility no longer exists for the teachers of classes that include state tests. The Florida Board of Education on Thursday adopted a new rule connecting value-added model results to evaluation rankings, from highly effective through unsatisfactory, for those teachers.

"That has been a district decision to this point," deputy commissioner Juan Copa said. "This rule sets one statewide standard ... to be used starting with 2015-16."

The rule affects teachers in fourth- through eighth-grade math, fourth- through tenth-grade English/language arts, and Algebra I.

"This is about potentially one-third of the evaluation for one-third of the teachers," Copa told the State Board.

Board members did not dispute the direction set forth by the Legislature. They did, however, suggest the model could be made more easily understood.

"I think this is so important to get right," member Rebecca Fishman Lipsey said. "One of the things that creates a love-hate relationship for folks with VAM is, it is mathematically complex. That translates into educators who have a hard time understanding what their VAM score is and what it means."

Zero represents average performance, while a positive score means their students showed gains beyond projections and a negative one indicates performance lower than expected. Most teachers get scores somewhere between 1 and -1.

Fishman Lipsey suggested something simpler and more accessible, "so that people can leverage this information for good."

Board member John Colon agreed. "Although teachers might understand them, I'm not sure parents do," he said of the scores, which in the past have been made public.

Department of Education staff noted the VAM formula has been in place since 2011, and remains a work in progress.