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State Releases First Results From Controversial VAM Data

teacher with students
Rhema Thompson

About 15 percent of Duval County teachers were rated as highly effective and nearly 77 percent rated effective in the 2013-14 year, according to the Florida Department of Education.

The state department released preliminary personnel evaluations based on Value-Added Model data Wednesday.

A full list of preliminary evaluation results is available on the Florida Department of Education's website.

The department said an updated report of evaluations will be released  in January.

Across the state, the results show about 42 percent of teachers rated highly effective, and 52 percent of teachers statewide were considered effective.

The state's controversial Value-Added Model – or VAM – took center stage last February after the Florida Times-Union won a year-long battle with the state department of education to release the individual VAM scores of the state's public school teachers.

For most teachers, the VAM scores account for 50 percent of their overall score. The other half of a teacher's evaluation is based on elements including principal observations and student surveys.

According to Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, principal observation scores are protected one year before they are released.

Teachers are completing the process of verifying the student data included in the evaluation this week, he said.

"Right now, it's still being vetted locally at all different districts," Vitti said.

However, last week, some teachers got an early look at the individual VAM scores of their colleagues due to an error that occurred while upgrading a system program, district officials said.

Duval Schools Chief of Human Resources Sonita Young said the glitch allowed some teachers to briefly access the scores before they were taken down.

According to Young, as of now, the number of highly effective teachers in the district increased by about 3 percent from the previous year, and the number of effective teachers increased by more than 9 percent. The number of teachers rated as "needs improvement" also increased slightly by about 1 percent from the previous year.

The percentages provided by the district varied from the state-released numbers, however, school officials said the numbers will not be finalized until next month. 

Credit Duval County Public Schools
A comparison of raw teacher data in Duval County from 2012-13 to 2013-14. *NOTE: Raw numbers reflect some variance from the state-released numbers as evaluation data is still being finalized and updated.

According to the Florida Department of Education, about 3 percent of Duval County teachers were rated as "developing" and less than one percent rated as "unsatisfactory" in 2013-14 – a slight decrease from the previous year, according to Young. 

The state's preliminary data shows more teachers with favorable ratings in neighboring districts Clay and Nassau. Nearly 79 percent of Clay teachers rated highly effected and 74.5 percent of teachers in Nassau County.  Twenty-one percent of Clay teachers and about 25 percent of Nassau teachers were effective. Neither county had any teachers rated unsatisfactory.

In St. Johns County 49.5 percent of teachers were designated as highly effective and about 50 percent of teachers were effective. None of the teachers in the county received unsatisfactory or developing scores. 

About 7 percent of Putnam County teachers received a highly effective rating, while 92.5 percent rated effective. Less than one percent of teachers were considered in need of improvement or developing. None received unsatisfactory.

In a written statement, Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart reiterated that the evaluations were "just one of many tools" used to analyze teacher performance.

"There's no doubt that some of our school districts still need improvement and we should not have any failing schools," she said. "This is why we're continuing to examine many factors that affect student outcomes, including our assessments.”

The state's Value-Added Model system determines teacher impact on student growth by measuring a student’s expected test score against his or her actual results. It does so by plugging in several variables that can potentially influence a student’s performance including a student’s disability status; his or her English language learner status; and mobility.

But the formula - developed by the same non-profit engineering the new statewide assessment - has been widely criticized by teachers and unions across the state who allege the formula is deeply flawed and fails to account forinfluencing factors such as poverty.

Vitti said it's unclear at this point, what last year's court ruling on the release of individual VAM scores means for this year.

"Obviously, we'll comply with the law," he said. "I think we're still looking at whether those [scores] are accessible to the general public...I think we're still verifying the extent of sharing with the general public based on last year's decision and process with the [Times-Union] that occurred statewide."

You can follow Rhema Thompson on Twitter @RhemaThompson.

Rhema Thompson began her post at WJCT on a very cold day in January 2014 and left WJCT to join the team at The Florida Times Union in December 2014.