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.