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Thursday, Apr 19, 2018
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Once-secret teacher scores hint at student performance

TAMPA - Wimauma Elementary School students are excelling in math and Spoto High School teachers are doing something right when it comes to teaching reading skills. But you can't read much more into partial teacher scores released Monday by the Florida Department of Education.

The numbers are based on a complex formula comparing how students are expected to perform on standardized tests against their actual performance. They account for about half the evaluation of all Florida public school teachers and they were released for the first time Monday.

The reason: A judge sided with a newspaper and declared them public record, against the objection of some unlikely legal allies - the state, which created them, and the Florida Education Association teacher's union, which considers them flawed.

Teachers found their email boxes loaded with warnings about the release - and reminders that they comprise just part of the report cards that determine their status and their pay.

"While releasing these data as a public record is not our chosen path to increase its usefulness, we will make this an opportunity to improve communication and understanding about what these data can - and cannot - tell us, and how they support better decision-making when analyzed in combination with other information about teaching and learning," Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart wrote, in her message to teachers.

The data is called the value-added model, or VAM, because it is designed to show the value added by a teacher's instruction.

Not all teachers have value-added results. The state's 67 school districts choose other assessment results to measure those who teach subjects other than the ones measured on the standardized tests, known as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and as ninth-grade Algebra 1.

"Easily half of Pasco's teachers are being evaluated using different data sources," Pasco County schools Superintendent Kurt Browning said in a news release Monday.

The new data is 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.

They are available in detail at the website of the newspaper that won their release, 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.

Here are some Tampa Bay highlights from these partial scores, for traditional public schools - not including charters, alternative or special education centers.

. In Hillsborough County, schools that topped the list for combined value-added scores for reading include Spoto High, Plant High and Foster Elementary, and at the bottom are Chamberlain High, Sligh Middle and Sheehy Elementary. In math, Wimauma, Clark and Robinson elementaries topped the list. Clair-Mel, Foster and Seminole elementaries were at the bottom.

. 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.

. In Pinellas, top schools in reading include Woodlawn, Sutherland and Bauder elementaries. Schools toward the bottom include Lakewood, Gibbs and Northeast high schools. In math, Sutherland, Woodlawn and Douglas Jamerson elementaries are at the top. Toward the bottom are Lealman Avenue Elementary, Lealman Intermediate and Northshore Elementary.

"It's just one part of a very complex thing that is a teacher evaluation and taken in isolation is not fair," Hillsborough school district spokesman Stephen Hegarty said.

In his message to teachers, Pinellas Superintendent Michael Grego said, "I'm writing to you as your superintendent to reiterate that we know student performance data in isolation does not provide a full picture of what happens in your classroom every day."

Hillsborough Superintendent MaryEllen Elia wrote in an email to teachers that the district didn't want the value-added data for individual teachers made public.

In Hillsborough, which pioneered the use of standardized student test scores in teacher evaluations, these results and other district tests comprise 40 percent of a teacher's grade and the remainder comes from observations by a teacher's principal and a peer evaluator.

Tribune reporter Anastasia Dawson contributed to this report.

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Twitter: @ErinKTBO

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