Here’s the crazy story of Kim Cook, a teacher at Irby Elementary, a K-2 school which feeds into Alachua Elementary, for grades 3-5, just down the road in Alachua, Fla. She was recently chosen by the teachers at her school as their Teacher of the Year.
Her plight stems back to last spring when the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 736, which mandates that 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation must be based on student scores on the state’s standardized tests, a method known as the value-added model, or VAM. It is essentially a formula that supposedly tells how much “value” a teacher has added to a student’s test score. Assessment experts say it is a terrible way to evaluate teachers but it has still been adopted by many states with the support of the Obama administration.
Since Cook’s school only goes through second grade, her school district is using the FCAT scores from the third graders at Alachua Elementary School to determine the VAM score for every teacher at her school.
Alachua Elementary School did not do well in 2011-12 evaluations that just came out; it received a D. Under the VAM model, the state awarded that school — and Cook’s school, by default — 10 points out of 100 for their D.
In this school district, there are three components to teacher evaluations:
1. A lesson study worth 20 percent. In the lesson study, small groups of teachers work together to create an exemplary lesson, observe one of the teachers implement it, critique the teacher’s performance and discuss improvement.
2. Principal appraisal worth 40 percent of overall score.
3. VAM data (scores from the standardized Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores for elementary schools) worth 40 percent of the overall score.
Cook received full points on her lesson study: 100 x .20 (20%) = 20 points
Cook received an 88/100 from her former principal: 88/100 x .40 (40%) = 35.2 points
On VAM data — points awarded by the state for the FCAT scores at Alachua Elementary School: 10/100 x .40 (40%) = 4 points
Total points that she received: 59.2 (Unsatisfactory)