I knew this day would come. Despite colleagues, administrators and union stewards saying that our VAMs would never be published in a newspaper, they were published in The Florida Times Union this week http://jacksonville.com/content/aggregated-school-and-teacher-data-20112012. Having become a bit of a VAMologist over the past two years, I knew that VAM data had been published in newspapers in Los Angeles and New York. It was only a matter of time before a Florida newspaper was desperate enough to publish teacher ratings for increased readership. Hmm…I wonder if including the link in my blog will boost my readership?
I found out about the newspaper winning its lawsuit against the FLDOE by reading the Education Commissioner’s email to Florida teachers in Diane Ravitch’s blog http://dianeravitch.net/2014/02/24/florida-outrage-junk-science-ratings-will-be-released-to-media. It was a bizarre mix of expressing empathy for teachers, praising their hard work and success while maintaining that student growth measures were an integral part of the evaluation process. Normally, most teachers would be cheering the news of the FLDOE losing a lawsuit. The biggest losers in this battle, however, would end up being the teachers with their dirty VAMs hung out for the whole world to see. The FEA had even joined forces with the enemy to keep our VAM data private.
Having spent months emailing the FLDOE and even filing my own Freedom of Information request last year in an attempt to access my personal VAM data without any success, I have to admit it was pretty amazing to have a searchable database which instantly gave me the VAM score that had endlessly eluded me. The only problem was now the entire world could also access this information. At first I checked the 2011-12 data and my VAM was .51%, meaning from my very rudimentary understanding, that I was a slightly better than average teacher according to VAM. Having performed slightly better than average my whole life, I was OK with this and for a moment I thought maybe this VAM thing had me all figured out. Then I checked my VAM score for the 2012-13 school year. Yikes, a negative 1.49%! My students had underperformed! Suddenly, I was a worse than average teacher according to VAM. So what does an underperforming teacher do next? Of course they start looking up all of the other teachers’ VAM scores at their school to see exactly how underperforming they are. It became clear after my very unscientific analysis of about twenty other teacher VAMs at my school, that I could possibly be the worst teacher at my school according to VAM! The few other teachers who were also on the negative side of the VAM formula, had not so coincidently instructed many of the same students. Should we assume we were a crappy bunch of educators? Or that we just had the misfortune of instructing a crappy group of students that year? Or perhaps, just maybe, the FLDOE’s $10 million algorithm is complete crap?
So tonight I will rest my head upon my pillow knowing that I was labeled one of the worst teachers at my school by VAM. I may have to douse myself with an entire bottle of lavender essential oil in order to get any sleep knowing that my fellow teachers, students, parents, administrators, Russian computer hackers and Nigerian scam kings can also see what a terrible teacher I am according to VAM. Welcome to teaching in the Digital Age!