Very interesting analysis that demonstrates why a VAM rating is better than the district rating.
Florida: Do neighboring districts have a vastly different teaching workforce?
Florida implemented a four-tiered system after passing a new school personnel evaluation law in 2011. Under this new system, teachers are evaluated on student academic growth and classroom practice and receive a rating of Highly Effective, Effective, Needs Improvement (called “Developing” if they are in their first three years of teaching), or Unsatisfactory.
Data from three neighboring counties in western Florida indicates that districts are implementing the new state law very differently. In Hillsborough County, 38 percent of teachers received the best rating of “Highly Effective” in SY 2012-13. A few miles away, however, Pasco County gave this rating to only 5 percent of its teachers.
In Pasco, where very few teachers received the highest rating, 94 percent of teachers received the next-best rating of “Effective”—they were considered good, but not amazing. In contrast, 43 percent of teachers in nearby Manatee County were labeled “Effective.”
One could argue that these varied teacher ratings are the result of other distinct differences across the three districts. But in fact, student demographics and academic performance at Hillsborough, Pasco, and Manatee are remarkably similar. All three counties have nearly identical percentages of economically disadvantaged students and produce relatively similar graduation rates. In 2013, all three districts received a letter grade of “C” based on student performance on statewide assessments. Despite these similarities among districts that share borders, the distribution of teacher effectiveness ratings is incredibly inconsistent—it makes one wonder if Florida is pushing districts to implement any “statewide” standards.
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Our findings suggest that local districts are still figuring out how to implement their own evaluation systems, and they’re doing so in divergent ways. Those divergences are likely more an artifact of poor implementation than true differences. The data that some states have released can hardly be considered useful if their system favors certain school districts, female versus male teachers, or specific grade levels. The truth is that districts are implementing statewide evaluation systems in an unreliable and ineffectual manner—and that means we haven’t made much as much progress as we need to when it comes to teacher evaluation.
Carolyn Chuong is an analyst at Bellwether Education Partners.