Putting Education Reform To The Test

State Analysis Says Teacher Evaluation Data Rates “Effective”

Florida Department of Education

After analyzing the first year of data, the Florida Department of Education believes the state's teacher evaluation formula is sound.

Students in math classes taught by the state’s highest-rated teachers made 19 percent more progress than the average student.

For students taught by the highest-rated reading teachers, student scores improved 8 percent more than the average student.

Students of the lowest-rated reading teacher’s made 36 percent less progress than the average student. While students of the lowest-rated math teachers made 40 percent less progress than the average student.

That’s according to a state Department of Education analysis of the first year of statewide teacher evaluation data presented to the State Board of Education this week. You can read the full report here.

Florida is one of a handful of state’s using a complex statistical formula in an attempt to determine just how much a teacher affects a student’s performance. Known as a value added measure, or VAM, state law requires the ratings will begin determining teacher pay starting next year.

The analysis used only teachers in math and reading. That’s because students are tested in those subject on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Teachers in other subjects not tested by the FCAT are assigned an evaluation score based on a school-wide average and including students who never sat in their classroom – a big complaint among teachers. Educators have also noted VAM scores can have a large margin of error and can change significantly from year-to-year.

State officials also say their analysis also shows the formula properly accounts for factors such as whether a student is learning.

As the percentage of those students increases or decreases, there was no correlation to value-added scores rising or falling. That means teachers who have more students learning English are not at a disadvantage to a teacher who has a room full of native English speakers.

The same was true no matter what grade taught, the percentage of gifted students, the percentage of students with disability, the percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunch or the racial makeup of the class.

“That means the model did its job,” Kathy Hebda with the Florida Department of Education staffer told the board.

“Why would they select something that looks so complicated with this long mathematical formula? Because it actually does level the playing field.  It accounts for a lot of things that affect student learning besides the teacher.”

Lawmakers are considering adjusting the teacher evaluation requirements when they meet beginning next month.

Education Commissioner Tony Bennett said the first year data “provides a big basis for advocacy that this is a valid system for measuring student growth.

“The use of this data is valid. It will become more valid.”


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