Florida School Superintendent: SB 736 Teacher Evaluations “Inconsistent, Unfair, Unscientific”

December 9, 2012

By: Bob Sikes – Scathing Purple Musings

Just 8 months ago, two retiring Florida superintendents of schools warned that the of SB 736 are “unworkable and may be the tipping point” in Florida’s education accountability system. Bill Vogel (Seminole) and Ron Blocker (Orange) spoke with Orlando Sentinelreporter Dave Weber.

Florida’s runaway school accountability system is destined to fail and take with it the positive goals it was intended to accomplish, the superintendents of Orange and Seminole county schools agreed Friday.

Orange Superintendent Ron Blocker and Bill Vogel, superintendent of Seminole schools, said the state’s school districts are being overwhelmed by demands of the continually expanding accountability system. Teacher evaluations based in large part on student test scores — the latest requirement imposed by the Legislature — are unworkable and may be the tipping point, they said

We have an accountability system that is going to fall apart like a house of cards,” said Vogel, criticizing state leaders for “making up the rules as they go along” without listening to educators.

…….But what initially started out as testing students to correct their deficiencies has gone astray, Blocker and Vogel said. Using student test scores to evaluate teachers is unproven and costly, they said…….The cost is in the millions and it will bring down the entire accountability system,” Vogel said. Blocker said the increasingly heavy student testing schedule “tends to narrowly focus” on immediate results, bringing concern whether students are gaining lasting knowledge.

Writing in this morning’s Gainesville Sun, Alachua county superintendent Dan Boyd obviously agrees with his colleagues:

The new evaluation system the state rushed to implement is based on what’s called the value-added model, VAM for short. Essentially the state predicts what a student’s score will be on the FCAT, then looks at how the student actually did and evaluates teachers accordingly.

It’s a system that’s been tried and studied in other places across the country. There’s no evidence it’s valid, but the state went ahead with it anyway.

What the state refused to do was come up with one consistent formula for using VAM scores statewide. Instead, it dumped that responsibility onto the districts, which were left to come up with their own formulas with little guidance from the state and without any actual data.

As a result, we’ve got 67 districts with 67 formulas……That’s only one of the system’s many flaws. The law forces districts to assign student VAM scores to all teachers, including those who didn’t teach FCAT subjects or grade levels. As a result, 75 percent of Alachua County’s teachers got scores for subjects they don’t teach, students they don’t teach, or both. It makes no sense, but it’s what we’re stuck with……….Alachua County is sending up a revised plan. The DOE will still have to approve it and it will still have to comply with the law. And there’s the rub, because any way you slice it, this system is badly flawed. It’s inconsistent, it’s unfair and it’s unscientific. Worst of all, there’s no proof that it does anything to actually help students.

One striking agreement between the three is their assertion that SB 736 does nothing for  students. Yet the rhetoric of legislators like now thankfully retired Senator Steve (R-Jacksonville : “kids will be irreparably  harmed”) and Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville: “I’m shocked, shocked that a union doesn’t want to have their members evaluated on the basis of performance.”) leads one to believe they are only interested in getting their way on the backs of Florida’s children.

You can be assured that it is naysayers like the three superintendents that Tony Bennett – the man who wants to be Florida’s next education commissioner is trying to eliminate with the changes in professional educator standards he and Governor Mitch Daniels shoved down the throats of Hoosiers last week.  The folly of not listening to educators and the  arrogance of state policy-makers couldn’t be more obvious for Floridians.

Read original article: http://bobsidlethoughtsandmusings.wordpress.com/2012/12/09/florida-school-superintendent-sb-736-teacher-evaluations-inconsistent-unfair-unscientific/

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