Frequent readers of this blog know that Kafkateach has been rather obsessed by her VAM ranking for the past twelve months. Well dear readers, after 12 months of suspense, I finally got my VAM! Only not really. A few blog posts ago I said I would be getting my VAM within a week. It took about two weeks longer than expected but I did get a VAM today. Only it wasn’t really my VAM. My personal VAM ranking continues to elude me and it probably always will. So here’s how it all went down…
Miami Dade teacher VAMs and 2011-12 evaluations have slowly been trickling out district wide over the last two weeks. Being proactive and consumed by VAM for the past 12 months, I emailed the administrator who gave me the first portion of my 2011-12 evaluation about when I would be getting my VAM. She passed me along to a different administrator who was in charge of my evaluation for the 2012-13 school year. In the meantime, a certain email list of rogue Dade County teachers debated whether to sign or not to sign our evaluations and which letters of protest with fancy legal verbage we should attach to our evaluations. I was prepared for a fierce showdown over VAM and a glorified moment of educator bureaucratic civil disobedience in my refusal to sign such malarkey. It turned out to be more like a 30 second schoolyard spat between four year olds than the battle royale I had envisioned.
The first point of annoyance was when I was emailed to come down to my school in order to sign a year old evaluation that I had no intention of signing in the first place. But damn, I wanted my VAM. To make matters worse, I had to drive to work in a monsoon rainstorm with a sick two month old baby who had kept me up all night, and Memorial Day weekend traffic was already clogging up South Beach. For those of you unfamiliar with Memorial Day weekend in South Beach, let’s just say the locals make plans for five years in advance in order not to be in South Beach that weekend. Needless to say I was already annoyed when I pulled up into the flooded parking lot. I showed up in my administrator’s office late, wet, wearing a baby carrier, yoga pants and $5 dollar Old Navy flip flops. This was not the fierce rebel image I was hoping for. Would anyone have taken Malcom X seriously if he had given his speeches wearing a Baby Bjorn with a wide-eyed baby bopping its head back and forth? This was only the first thing to go wrong. Upon entering, my administrator realized he had forgotten to fill the learning environment strand of my observation and it would take three hours for the district’s system to upload the information so he couldn’t print it out and have me sign the 2012-13 evaluation form. The good news is that my administrator was nice enough to give me a perfect 50 on the observational portion. I wouldn’t have even given me a perfect 50. I wear flip flops to work for Christ’s sake, he could have easily knocked me down for professionalism at the minimum. In my defense, I have been pregnant for half of my teaching career so maybe he was willing to overlook the casual footwear. Unable to sign a perfect 2012-13 observation, I was asked to sign my 2011-12 evaluation. Finally, the moment I had been waiting for! I would get to see my VAM! But they didn’t give the VAM I had been waiting for, instead they gave me the generic school wide reading VAM of 37.5 “effective. “ When I told my administrator that my VAM according to the district manual was supposed to come from my students’ reading scores and not the school wide average he repeatedly denied that my students’ scores were the source of my VAM. He claimed only reading and math teachers of EOCs would get a personal VAM ranking. When I pressed him on what data was used for my VAM ranking, he immediately caved, raised the white flag of surrender and said “Fine, you don’t have to sign the form” and took the manila folder away. Before my 2011-12 evaluation was whisked away, I saw a dramatic difference in cut scores from what had previously been used on my IPEGS evaluation. He said I had only missed being “highly effective” by .50. My total was 84.50 and I needed a 85 to be “highly effective.” Funny, last year I did the math and I distinctly remembered I needed an 89 to be highly effective. Had I known I only needed an 85 I would have pressed harder to get one extra point for my observational evaluation which I had clear documentation to prove. Then I glanced at “needs improvement” which according to my IPEGs documentation from last year the cut score ranged from 37-73. Somehow this range had shrunk to only 50-54 and the range for effective had grown to 55-84. Had I known these would be the cut scores, Kafkateach wouldn’t have lost so much sleep over the last year. But how could they go back and change the cut scores after the fact? How could they go back and change which data would be used for my VAM? How could I teach all school year without ever being informed which test data would be used for this year’s VAM? Was this all just a bad dream? The mad hallucinations of an insomniac teacher? The answer would come from my union steward who I ran into on my way out of my administrator’s office. A man who for so long avoided giving the faculty any answers finally gave me the answer I had been looking for, “Don’t worry” he said, “None of this really matters.”
When I went home to check my IPEGS forms from last year, the previous year’s cut scores were as whacked out as I remembered them (I asked to see my 2011-12 IPEG forms at the school but it was mysteriously missing from personel folder. I wouldn’t be surprised if the district had them all shredded). A word to the wise teachers, save everything. Your classroom and your home will look like an episode of hoarders, but that district form you casually signed might one day save your job and keep you from thinking you’ve lost your mind. After twelve months of VAM anxiety disorder the ending was anticlimactic to say the least. About as unsatisfying as a nighttime drama series that solves a murder mystery by telling you it was all a dream. Twelve months of sleepless nights and all I have to show for it is a dozen conspiracy laden VAM blog posts and at least one bogus evaluation. If you had a more dramatic VAM reveal than Kafkateach, please share it in the commenting section below. It’s time for me to get some sleep.