Dear Florida parents, I want to call your attention to a destructive policy that will have dire consequences for your children. Florida’s ill-conceived merit pay evaluation system may result in your children being subjected to inferior teaching.
The merit pay system bases one-half of a teacher’s evaluation on standardized test scores, most of which is derived from a Value Added Model (VAM) score. The truth is teachers are being scored based on students they do not teach and not even on the students they do teach. Does that sound like a system in which you’ll know which teachers are the best?
Let me explain how this system played out for me last year. I teach a gifted enrichment class for four elementary schools. Each day, one grade level of students is bused to my school. As a teacher outside the regular classroom, nobody was able to tell me which tests my evaluation was tied to.
Consequently, I taught a whole year and didn’t know how I would be evaluated. Toward the end of the year, I inferred my evaluation would be based on students’ FCAT scores; however, I learned only about 10 of my 80 students would be counted. Why, you ask?
The Department of Education, which we are relying on to use an equation only mathematicians can understand, couldn’t figure out how to include my students who were bused to my school. I tried to correct the measure with the district; however, there was no recourse. My score will likely be based on the test scores of roughly 10 percent of my students. Does that sound like a system in which you’ll know which teachers are the best?
The lunacy of this system doesn’t stop there. Groups of teachers were formed and given a list of some of the school’s lowest- performing students. These students were tied to our evaluation scores, and our charge was to bring their test scores up.
I pride myself on being a team player, but to determine my effectiveness as a teacher based on students I don’t teach is not what this system was intended to do. Even more preposterous is my evaluation will be based on the performance of a student who never set foot on my school’s campus this year due to an illness. Does that sound like a system in which you’ll know which teachers are the best?
I commend your efforts to hold the Florida DOE accountable for ill-suited policies. I call on you again to defend the best interests of your children. Demand the merit pay system be repealed and replaced with a system that truly identifies effective teachers.
Colucci is a National Board-Certified teacher. He lives in Titusville.