State's teacher grading system faces harsh criticism

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- It's an teacher's job to grade students, but it's the grading of teachers that's causing controversy.

Florida wanted to keep the numbers secret, but our news partner, the Florida Times-Union sued to grant access to your children's teachers rankings based on a complex grading formula. The head of Clay County's teachers union says the district is taking its own approach to Florida's VAM.

"Next year their pay is based on that," said Renna Lee Paiva. "Well I got news for you, if you're gonna base my pay on this, on that VAM score, we have a problem!"

Paiva is the President of the Clay County Education Association. She says she's worked in education for 36 years and knows what it takes to be a successful teacher. Paiva believes the state's value added model system is highly flawed and serves little purpose.

"No other profession would turn around at the end of the day and say this is what you equate to, some big long statistical number," said Paiva. "That's not what we are."

In St Johns County, for teachers who have worked three or more years, 50 percent of their annual evaluation is determined by the VAM score and 40 percent for those who have worked less than three years. In the Duval County Public School district VAM accounts for 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation. As for Clay County, Paiva says 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation is based on student performance. Within student performance there are 11 standards, VAM is just one of 11. She says that's close to about 5 percent of an annual evaluation.

"I think it's invalid," said Paiva. "I don't even pretend to stand behind it."

Both Superintendents in Duval and St Johns County agree the system is in its early stages, having just calculated teachers scores starting in 2011. Among the criticism is it doesn't take a lot of factors into account such as poverty. Some teachers are getting scores based on students they haven't even taught.

"I've got a VAM score and I'm not a teacher and have never taught," said Paiva.

The state is in favor of VAM amounting to 40 to 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation.


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