LAND O’ LAKES — Pasco County school district officials and the teachers union say it’s a move that could sow confusion rather than shed light on how well teachers are doing their jobs.
Regardless, the Florida Department of Education this week released a portion of evaluations of teachers after losing a court case to the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, which fought for the release of the information.
In Pasco, Superintendent Kurt Browning issued a statement on the heels of the release, cautioning parents that they should not jump to conclusions about their children’s teachers based on what they see in the state data.
District officials, along with United School Employees of Pasco, worry that parents won’t be able to easily understand the information. They also say that more goes into a teacher’s evaluation than is included in the information the state released.
“For many teachers, this is another stress factor to an already stressful job since the numbers to be released are subject to misinterpretation and are not in the proper context,” the union said in a statement released Monday.
The information reveals individual teacher and school evaluation scores that were determined by using what is known as the value-added model. The state says the value-added model “levels the playing field” by accounting for differences in the proficiency and characteristics of students assigned to teachers.
The VAM formula assigns a teacher a score based on how a student performed on standardized tests compared with how that student is predicted to perform. That prediction is based on a statistical model that takes a number of factors into account.
The union called it “ludicrous” to try to determine a teacher’s value based on a “formula that is comprehensible only to a small number of statisticians.”
VAM uses a complicated formula based on fourth- through 10th-grade Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test math and reading scores and ninth-grade algebra end-of-course exam scores. But not every teacher teaches those subjects, and teachers of other grade levels also are not included in the VAM calculations.
For those teachers, Pasco used districtwide or schoolwide calculations. The district said it did the same for teachers who did not teach enough students to generate a meaningful VAM calculation.
“Easily half of Pasco’s teachers are being evaluated using different data sources,” Browning said.
The new data are broken down by district, school and grade level and by individual teacher in reading, math and Algebra I for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years.
The results are available in detail at the website of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. The Department of Education did not post them online and made them available to other news organizations only through password-protected accounts.
In Pasco, top schools in reading include James W. Mitchell High, Trinity Elementary and Sand Pine Elementary. Schools toward the bottom in reading include New River Elementary, Crews Lake Middle and Zephyrhills High. In math, some of the best are Sand Pine, Lacoochee and Chasco elementaries. Toward the bottom are Pine View, Denham Oaks and New River elementaries.
The data release left districts clearly worried about the effect on teacher morale.
“We have great teachers in Pasco, and I don’t want this release to impact our teacher/principal relationships, or lead to a misunderstanding about an individual teacher’s performance,” Browning said in his statement. “We will do what we can to assure that the teacher evaluation process is meaningful and is used to inform teachers about their strengths and opportunities for growth.”
Alison Crumbley, chairwoman of the Pasco County School Board, said the district’s concerns about the data aren’t because of fears of accountability.
“We don’t shy away from accountability, but our system of teacher accountability must be based on multiple measures and must not compromise the trust between teachers and principals,” Crumbley said.
Reporter Erin Kourkounis contributed to this story.