VAM Formula: Fake or Florida

Late Night with Seth Meyers introduced a skit last night called Fake or Florida in which contestants identify ridiculous news stories as made up or as real stories from Florida. For years, Carl Hiaason has made a living writing about the bizarre events in the news in his home state. Pythons preying on poodles, pop stars acting badly, gators, corrupt politicians, and flip flam men populate Hiaason’s books that are uniquely Florida.

Meyers asked questions about pastors eating cockroaches, scorned lovers, and attacks on a pizza delivery driver. I’d like to suggest a question for the next edition of Fake or Florida.

Is the following statement Fake or Florida?

In Florida, the pay of public school teachers is tied to an evaluation to determine their effectiveness based on the following formula:

VAM-formula-webFake or Florida?

Sadly, this is another example of Florida.

In the 2012-2013 school year, this formula was used  in teacher evaluations to determine a teacher’s VAM (Value Added Measure) and despite teaching in the state for 34 years, I do not understand the formula or how it measures my effectiveness as a teacher. But what I do know is that my VAM score was based on the scores of 200 students that I did NOT teach in the 2012-2013 school year. In fact, I’ve never taught any of the students used to determine my VAM.

This score is used to evaluate my effectiveness as a teacher, calculate my final evaluation, and in the future will be used to qualify teachers for pay increases. This week my score was also released to the public so parents can see how their child’s teacher stacks up.

I’d like to share the letter I wrote to Senator Dorothy Hukill and Representative Dennis Baxley explaining why VAM is not an effective measure of my teaching ability:

As a public school teacher in Marion County, I am concerned not only about the current process used to determine a VAM score for educators, but about the release of these scores to the public. For example, my score was formulated from students I do not teach. As a teacher for Marion Virtual School, I am assigned for administrative purposes to Marion Technical Institute; however, in the 2012-2013 school year I did not have even one student from MTI enrolled in any of the classes I teach. Nevertheless, my VAM score is based on data collected from MTI students. This quite obviously does not reflect my skills as a teacher, nor my impact on students attending Marion Technical Institute. I’m asking that you lead the charge to initiate a common sense method for determining VAM scores, and in the meantime, share my story and those of others in an effort to inform the public that these scores have little if any value in determining the effectiveness of teachers in our schools. I appreciate your help in finding a remedy for the damage inaccurate VAM scores cause to dedicated Florida educators.

Help me spread the word about VAM scores. Florida uses “voodoo math” to evaluate its teachers and the published scores are fake since the flaws in the process are numerous.

Now take a few minutes and watch Late Night with Seth Meyers Fake or Florida skit. After the bad news about Florida’s teacher evaluations, you need something to put a smile on your face.

Summer Reading List

Those three words send chills down the spines of middle school and high school students all over the country. Every student relishes the first day of summer – no homework, no projects, no studying for tests. Unfortunately, too many schools and teachers sabotage the joy of reading by assigning required books to be read and reports and projects to be completed on these books during the days of summer.

As a person who can’t wait for Tuesday to roll around so my teaching responsibilities will be behind me giving me time to read, I hate the idea of required summer reading. I’m all for teachers providing suggested reading lists for students. Those who want to read but need help finding titles of books that may enjoy will appreciate these lists and students who already love to read may refer to the list but will probably have developed their own reading plans for the summer now that they have more free time. Of course, there are others who will not read, but that’s preferable to resenting reading and books because they associate books with assignments, projects, reports, and school work.IMG_1280

Personally, my summer reading list grows every day. I’ve downloaded a dozen or more non-fiction books on my Kindle and I visited the library on Thursday and picked up the three books on my list. I’ve decided to concentrate on Florida books this summer. Among the titles on my list (in no particular order):

Cross Creek by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

Quite a Year for Plums by Bailey White (actually South Georgia)

Team Rodent by Carl Hiaasen (non-fiction)

Florida Forever and Allapattah by Patrick Smith

Totch A Life in the Everglades by Loren G. “Totch Brown (memoir)

Ocali Country by Eloise Robinson Ott and Louis Hickman Chazal

Condominium by John D. MacDonald

Barefoot Mailman by Theodore Pratt (time to reread this one)

Tourist Season by Carl Hiassen

To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway

No book reports. No projects. No deadlines. No requirement to finish a book I’m not enjoying. Now that’s what I call summer reading!