merit pay

“Shut it down!” has become a popular protest slogan these days thanks to documented cases of police brutality, but perhaps union leaders, educators, students and parents across the state of Florida can organize a protest outside the FLDOE and chant those same words this spring?  What exactly is the point of a government financed institution that releases batch after batch of baloney data? Take for instance this chart released by the FLDOE pertaining to class size compliance

Miami Dade is reported to have zero classrooms over the 25 student class size cap for grades 9-12. Maybe teachers or the union could compile their own spreadsheet based on actual class sizes calculated the old fashioned way (counting the number of students in a room at one time).  I have a feeling that the actual numbers of classrooms out of compliance would far exceed the number zero derived at by using the district’s hocus pocus math.  Anytime you see the number “zero” or “100%” in a government spreadsheet alarm bells should be ringing.

The state released another batch of goobledigook numbers last week in the form of teacher VAM scores. One teacher who managed to circumvent the Florida Times Union paywall for a brief second saw that she had a VAM score for the 2013-14 school year even though she retired in 2012.  If the Florida Times Union continues its holiday tradition of VAM shaming Florida teachers, I hope they also run a story on how the numbers calculated by the FLDOE and school districts across the state are nothing but balderdash! (Please note that I am running out of old fashioned G-rated synonyms for the word that refers to excrement from a certain animal). As if the FLDOE VAM rankings aren’t bad enough, districts are coming up with some very creative and utterly invalid ways to calculate the student growth portion of our evaluations. Here is what we are doing in Dade for secondary school teachers:

1. If you are a reading, english or math instructor, expect the new FSA assessments to count for 50% of your evaluation. Never mind that this is the first year it has been given and there is no way to measure growth for a test that a student has never taken. Your VAM will be calculated by the state and most likely published in the Florida Times Union next December.

2. If you teach a state EOC like US History, your VAM will also be calculated by the FLDOE.

3. If you teach AP or IB courses, they will rank your pass rates against your peers even though you may be teaching entirely different types of students and some of you may be able to hand select your students while others have their AP courses treated like a dumping ground. If you have the AVID program at your school, God help you.

4. If you teach a DDEOC (District Designated End of Course) subject, the district will calculate your VAM based on your students’ performance on a district designed end of course exam that you are not allowed to see. Some departments have provided teachers with a study guide but other departments have not.

5. Teach a specialized elective course? Congratulations! You won the VAM lotto! You get to design your own test. Not only do you design your own test, you also get to administer it to your own students! Of course this used to be called a “final exam” but finals never counted for 50% of your evaluation or could potentially award you hundreds or thousands in merit pay. I’m not sure who the district will rank you against to derive your student growth number since if you are designing your own test there are probably only five of you teaching the course in the entire district.

I guess the only solace to this nonsense is that President Obama’s Race to the Top program was denied funding by Congress so there won’t be any money to give teachers merit pay anyway. Personally, I don’t think Obama or Duncan give a hoot that Congress won’t fund anymore of their “race down the rabbit hole” competitions. The testing, data gathering, and computer purchasing contracts have already been awarded. Teacher tenure has been destroyed, and younger teachers have been forced to accept a promise of merit pay that may never materialize while older teachers may have their pay frozen in time. Teachers and students have been brutalized by the FLDOE and the DOE for years, maybe it’s time to shut them both down.