Want less tests? Change the Accountability System.

Everyone wants public schools to be held accountable, right? After all, if tax dollars are spent on a public program or service, there should be a reasonable expectation that the outcomes will be positive, so that public funding isn’t wasted. That was the goal of Florida legislators when the statewide education accountability system was created.

One of the most controversial and significant aspects of the accountability system is the way teachers are evaluated. Rather than a simple evaluation by their supervisor, which most people in other professions are familiar with, teachers are evaluated using this complex formula known as value-added-measurement, or VAM:

VAM3

The formula, which is as convoluted and complicated as it looks, is supposed to evaluate teachers based on student performance (i.e. standardized test scores), while taking into consideration the multitude of factors that contribute to student learning (most of which are outside the control of the teacher). It’s the reason for a good amount of the tests that students take in school, starting in Kindergarten all the way through 12th grade. Even in grades that do not take the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA), students are taking standardized tests so that their teachers can be evaluated.

The high stakes placed on testing has led to the emphasis in the classroom becoming all about the test. Because of the way they are evaluated, teachers risk losing their pay, or even their jobs, if their students don’t perform well on tests.

The problem is, it isn’t working.

Numerous research indicates that tying teacher evaluations to student test scores doesn’t work. The American Statistical Association agrees: “VAMs are generally based on standardized test scores and do not directly measure potential teacher contributions toward other student outcomes.”

In this article, Florida teacher Luke Flynt explains how he received an unsatisfactory rating because the VAM formula predicted his students would score an above perfect score.

A recent study by the Central Florida Public School Boards Coalition concluded that: “Performance pay systems are not an effective way to increase student achievement.”

Not only is it not working, it’s driving teachers out of the profession.

Enrollment is down in teacher preparation programs nationwide. The teacher shortage has increased significantly in recent years, with Florida having one of the largest shortages. This has led to more non-certified teachers entering the profession, as well as vacancies being filled by long-term substitutes who may have no educational background or experience.

A survey by the National Education Association indicates that the focus on high stakes testing and tying teacher evaluations to test scores is a key contributing factor to teachers leaving the profession. “Education “reformers” are obsessed with rooting out “bad” teachers, and they have persuaded lawmakers across the nation that the only quick ‘n’ easy way to do that is to tie teacher evaluation to test scores.”

We are all for accountability, but not like this.

Parents and teachers have spoken out against the flawed accountability system for years. A 2015 Gallup poll indicated that, nationwide, a majority of public school parents do not want their children’s teachers to be evaluated based on test scores. Florida legislators are finally starting to listen, and several bills have been presented during the 2017 session that address accountability.

Contact your state legislators  as well as the DOE, Board of Education and Governor Scott. Let them know you want teachers to be evaluated based on more authentic, proven methods of measurement – and NOT using student test scores.

 

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