Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
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Teacher performance tops agenda

The VAM (Value-Added Model) Data, which will allow parents to gauge the performance of their child's teachers with empirical statistics, will be a topic of discussion when the Monroe County School Board meets at 5 p.m. today in Marathon.

The data was released late Monday by the Florida Department of Education. The VAM model has been a bone of contention among Florida educators and advocates, leading to a successful lawsuit filed recently against the Florida DOE by the Florida Times-Union newspaper, in Jacksonville.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart acknowledged the controversy in an open letter to Florida teachers, posted Monday on the DOE's website.

"As many of you know, we at the Department of Education have been fighting for you and for all teachers in an effort to maintain the confidentiality of teachers' names and their individual value-added data," Stewart wrote. "Recently, the department -- and our co-defendant, the Florida Education Association -- lost a lawsuit filed by a news outlet to gain access to teachers' individual value-added data. This data is calculated on behalf of school districts to complete their teacher and principal evaluations.

"We took on this fight because I believe the teacher-principal relationship for professional development is supported when evaluation information has a period of protection. Your work and dedication have helped to create a bright future for our state and our children, and I want to support that work in any way that I can."

Today's presentation on the VAM data will be given by Superintendent Mark Porter, however, he was unavailable for comment at press time Monday.

District 2 School Board member Andy Griffiths did discuss the pros and cons of VAM with The Citizen.

"One major consequence of using this model is that it's measuring the student's performance based upon a single test score," Griffiths explained. "Issues like the student being a bad test-taker, having a bad day, or suffering an anxiety attack, may have a significant impact on a teacher's evaluation for a whole year's work. That's the down side. There are some up sides, according to the DOE, such as differentiated accountability for teachers. Before we used the VAM model, there were only two possible outcomes, satisfactory, or unsatisfactory. With VAM, there are four: Highly effective, effective, needs improvement, and unsatisfactory.

Griffiths added, "Wherever that kid is at, there is a predictable amount of growth that is expected. They want to measure how much the teacher meet, exceeds, or falls short of the predicted amount of growth."

Also at today's meeting, Porter will update the board on proposals to maintain half-cent sales tax, which helps fund district capital projects. The tax, which is set to expire next year unless action is taken, is supported by all board members, as well as Porter's administration.

"We can't afford to let that drop off the radar," Griffiths said. "Right now, formulating a plan to keep that in place is job No. 1."

Also Monday, lawyers representing the district and its former contractor, Coastal Construction Group, met in the Key West courtroom of circuit court Judge David Audlin for a preliminary hearing regarding possible conflicts of interest between both legal teams though at press time it was unclear what the outcome might be.

tschmida@keysnews.com

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