“Unsatisfactory” Teacher of the Year

Image courtesy of Brian Kuger/The Washington Post

If you’re a teacher, you’re probably very familiar with end-of-year evaluations that rate how effective you’ve been. You’re also probably familiar with student test scores playing a part in that evaluation, which some states call the “value-added” model. Whatever your feelings on the rationality of this measure, you’ll still be amazed (and unsurprised) at the case of a Florida teacher being voted Teacher of the Year by her peers while at the same time given an unsatisfactory evaluation by the school itself.

Irby Elementary in Alachua, Florida houses only kindergartners through second graders, who don’t take state tests. By Florida law, 40 percent of teacher evaluations must be based on student test scores on the state’s standardized tests. So, through a quirk in the system, all the teachers at Irby Elementary have that 40 percent come from students at nearby Alachua Elementary, which houses grades three through six. This means that teachers are evaluated on test scores on which they have no impact.

Kim Cook, the Teacher of the Year at Irby, received high marks from her peers and her principal, which makes up 60 percent of her evaluation. However, Alachua Elementary had a bad test year, which tanked the other 40 percent of her score. The results were “unsatisfactory” or “needs improvement” ratings for Kim and every other teacher at Irby.

How would you feel if your job status was left up to a totally unrelated group of people? This situation in Florida may be an unintended consequence of tying test scores to job performance, but it clearly represents the root problem: measuring the value of a teacher is complex and shouldn’t be so dependent on the results of a standardized test, especially when the teachers themselves have no hand in creating the test.

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6 Responses to ““Unsatisfactory” Teacher of the Year”

  1. Casey U. WilliamJuly 26, 2013 at 1:28 am #

    Most of these suggestions – along with other acts of resistance — spring not from someone’s imagination but from real activities being undertaken around the country. Parents in Wisconsin successfully lobbied their state legislators to prevent a high-school exit exam from being the sole determinant of whether students are permitted to graduate – a stinging defeat for Gov. Tommy Thompson. In Florida, where schools are graded on the basis of test scores, with successful schools receiving more money and the neediest schools threatened with a loss of funding, a group of teachers and their principal at an “A” school (Gulf Gate Elementary) publicly refused to accept their bonuses. In a similar protest in North Carolina, teachers (at East Chapel Hill High School) pooled their state bonus checks and formed a foundation to send grants to the state’s poorer schools.

  2. Jessica MessengerMay 25, 2013 at 2:27 am #

    She has had an impact of some students at Alachua these being the students she has previously taught. She should not be evaluated by the test scores of students she didn't have in class, or students who moved into the district. Standardized tests are based on what the students should know at their current grade level a kindergarten teacher can not be scored based on the 3rd grade students test scores in history. This wasn't something taught at her grade level. In my district we give yearly assessments these are just to track the students progress. In our evaluations we have a list of 15 options to choose on how we test our kids and this factors into our effective/ineffective score.

  3. Bettye Q. CottonApril 29, 2013 at 4:18 am #

    Scores on Indiana’s standardized tests are used to assess students, teachers and schools.

  4. DonnaMarch 14, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    Teachers in Florida are frequently evaluated on students they have never seen. I know lots of teachers in that position. Well, most of then are, actually. PE teachers, social studies teachers, art teachers, band directors…. they do not even know most of the students who are impacting their evaluations!

  5. Brian KrugerMarch 14, 2013 at 8:17 am #

    As correctly noted in the Washington Post piece: “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. ”

    In Kim’s case there is NO relationship, not even INdirectly, between her teaching and the scores used to denigrate her. NONE. Nada. Zip. Zero.

    I know this to be a fact. I’m Kim’s husband. I took that photograph.

  6. ElaineMarch 14, 2013 at 2:28 am #

    Here’s a few thoughts.
    1. How about we get rid of the Federal DOE and send the money back to the states that it came from so they can afford to educate kids.
    2. Get all the Legislators and so called “Experts on Education,” you know, the ones who have never ever EVER taught a public school class in their lives, and throw them out of the mix. Stop listening to them altogether.
    3. Start getting out of the way and letting teachers actually, oh I don’t know, TEACH! Quit telling them how and what to teach and let them teach what they know needs to be taught.

    Then MAYBE…just MAYBE mind you, Johnny will finally be able to read!