Performance scores for Florida public school teachers were released Monday by the state Department of Education, following a lawsuit launched by The Florida Times-Union, the Jacksonville newspaper. While other measures of the state's teacher evaluation system had been made open to the public, scores for how much teachers contribute to student growth were previously closed.
Teachers throughout the state – as well as throughout the country – have been critical of the "value-added" model of measuring a teacher's contribution to student growth, which is in place in Florida. The value-added model measures a teacher's contribution to student academic growth by comparing the test scores of an individual teacher's students to the same students' scores from past years, as well as to other students in the same grade.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement that the model is "not an accurate or reliable assessment tool," and that releasing the scores is a "grave disservice" to students, parents and teachers.
"Rather than doing what’s needed to help kids apply knowledge, problem solve, think critically and build trusting relationships, Florida wants to reduce students and teachers to data points," Weingarten said in the statement. "Floridians deserve more.”
Not only is the performance measure itself controversial, but the fact that the measure can account for up to half of a teacher's entire evaluation score is also under fire. Other scores can come from classroom observations, scores on classroom management and lesson planning.
"While releasing this data as a public record is not our chosen path to increase its usefulness, we will make this an opportunity to improve communication and understanding about what these data can — and cannot — tell us," Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said in a letter that was printed on the department's website, according to The Ledger.
According to a Times-Union analysis of the data released – which also includes scores for schools overall – more than half of school districts throughout the state last year saw a majority of teachers receive scores below average.
Still, teachers maintain the calculations used in the system are flawed and misleading, and that the measure should not be weighted so heavily in a teacher's overall evaluation.
“Once again the state of Florida puts test scores above everything else in public education. And once again, it provides false data that misleads more than it informs," said Florida Education Association President Andy Ford, in a statement. "When will the Department of Education stop being beholden to flawed data and start listening to the teachers, education staff professionals, administrators and parents of Florida?"