As of this morning, a group of seven Florida teachers from three counties filed suit against the Florida Commissioner of Education, the Florida Board of Education and the school boards of those three counties - Alachua, Hernando and Escambia. The lawsuit was filed in the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of Florida, Gainesville Division today.
Perhaps the lawsuit can be explained by looking at plaintiff Kim Cook, first grade teacher at W.W. Irby Elementary School in Alachua County. SHe holds a Master’s Degree in Multilingual and Multicultural Education, plays a leading role both within her school and the greater community in spreading best teaching practices for teaching English to speakers of other languages, and was selected as her school’s Teacher of the Year in 2012-13.
But consider that in 2011-2012 40% of her evaluation was based on FCAT (Florida state tests) reading tests of 4th and 5th graders at Alachua County Elementary School, where she does not teach, whom she has never taught, whom she has never even met. She is scheduled to be similarly evaluated this year. Oh, and by the way? Even though her school considered her their teacher of the year, because of the requirements of the Florida law, SB 736, her official evaluation was that her performance was "unsatisfactory." Under that law, teachers rated unsatisfactory (the lowest of the four performance ratings under the law) two consecutive years or two out of three years in a row are subject to termination or non-renewal. Transfers, promotions and layoffs are based on the assigned performance rating. And, as of July 1, 2014, salaries will be based on the assigned performance rating as well.
Or perhaps we can look at Bethann Brooks, a health science teacher at Central High School in Hernando County, who is also a registered nurse and who teaches tenth, eleventh and twelfth graders in courses designed to prepare them to work as nursing assistants, medical administrative assistants and in similar fields. She was selected as both her school’s and Hernando County’s Teacher of the Year in 2012-13. 51% of her 2011-2012 evaluation was based on reading scores of all ninth and tenth graders at Central High School, most of whom she does not teach. Obviously the few she teaches her instruction is NOT in reading, but in health science subjects not assessed by the test. she is again schedule to be evaluated in that fashion for the current school year.
The other 5 plaintiffs have similar stories.
All 7 allege that they are being treated in an arbitrary, irrational and unfair fashion in being evaluated for both last year and this year with significant (40% or more) of their evaluations based on the standardized test performance of students they do not teach, or from subjects they do not teach.
The lawsuit contends that teachers’ evaluations based on the test scores of students they do not teach or based on subjects they do no teach violate the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The 7 are all outstanding teachers, which is why they have been selected as the defendants for this case, which will be discussed later today in press conference organized jointly by the National Education Association and its Florida affiliate the Florida Education Association, which are also parties to the suit.
Florida is not alone in having laws evaluating teachers on the basis of test scores of students. States which received funding under Race to the Top were as one requirement of receipt of the funds distributed as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (the stimulus) to base a significant portion of teacher evaluation upon the assessment performance of students.
This from the Answer sheet:
Here’s the crazy story of Kim Cook, a teacher at Irby Elementary, a K-2 school which feeds into Alachua Elementary, for grades 3-5, just down the road in Alachua, Fla. She was recently chosen by the teachers at her school as their Teacher of the Year.
Her plight stems back to last spring when the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 736, which mandates that 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation must be based on student scores on the state’s standardized tests, a method known as the value-added model, or VAM. It is essentially a formula that supposedly tells how much “value” a teacher has added to a student’s test score. Assessment experts say it is a terrible way to evaluate teachers but it has still been adopted by many states with the support of the Obama administration.
Since Cook’s school only goes through second grade, her school district is using the FCAT scores from the third graders at Alachua Elementary School to determine the VAM score for every teacher at her school.
Alachua Elementary School did not do well in 2011-12 evaluations that just came out; it received a D. Under the VAM model, the state awarded that school — and Cook’s school, by default — 10 points out of 100 for their D.
In this school district, there are three components to teacher evaluations:
1. A lesson study worth 20 percent. In the lesson study, small groups of teachers work together to create an exemplary lesson, observe one of the teachers implement it, critique the teacher’s performance and discuss improvement.
2. Principal appraisal worth 40 percent of overall score.
3. VAM data (scores from the standardized Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores for elementary schools) worth 40 percent of the overall score.
Cook received full points on her lesson study: 100 x .20 (20%) = 20 points
Cook received an 88/100 from her former principal: 88/100 x .40 (40%) = 35.2 points
On VAM data — points awarded by the state for the FCAT scores at Alachua Elementary School: 10/100 x .40 (40%) = 4 points
Total points that she received: 59.2 (Unsatisfactory)
This is her second year at Irby Elementary, where she teaches first grade. She never taught a single student who took the FCAT at Alachua Elementary last spring. The same will hold true for this year’s evaluation; 40 percent of her appraisal will be based on the scores of students she has never taught.
The Florida Education Association’s Web site says:
Every teacher will be evaluated using the new evaluation criteria and student learning growth. Veteran teachers must demonstrate Highly Effective or Effective performance; if they are rated unsatisfactory two consecutive or two out of three years, they will be placed on an annual contract then, if there is no improvement, terminated.Here’s what Cook wrote to me in an e-mail:
I have almost 25 years of experience as a teacher. I JUST got my 2011-2012 evaluation on Friday. There is a real possibility that I will receive an unsatisfactory evaluation for this school year. I may go up to “needs improvement”, but either way, my job is in jeopardy.
Last month, the faculty and staff at my school voted for me as Irby Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year. I am so honored to have been chosen. I work with an amazing group of teachers. They are the most hardworking and talented group of women I have had the privilege to know. Yet every single teacher at my school received an evaluation of “needs improvement” or “unsatisfactory” because of this insane system that the Republican state legislators and Gov. [Rick] Scott dreamed up at the beckoning of Jeb Bush and ALEC [American Legislative Exchange Council]. My colleagues and I deserve better than this.”