Letter: What value-added data can and cannot tell us
Pamela L Stewart
Commissioner of Education
St Johns, FL
Dear Editor and teachers:
As many of you know, we at the Department of Education have been fighting for you and for all teachers in an effort to maintain the confidentiality of teachers’ names and their individual value-added data.
We took on this fight because I believe the teacher-principal relationship for professional development is supported when evaluation information has a period of protection. Your work and dedication have helped to create a bright future for our state and our children, and I want to support that work in any way that I can.
Recently, the department, and our co-defendant, the Florida Education Association, lost a lawsuit filed by a news outlet to gain access to teachers’ individual value-added data. This data is calculated on behalf of school districts to complete their teacher and principal evaluations.
Later today, the department is providing these data, as required by the First District Court of Appeals, to the media who have requested it. We expect this information will be posted online and individual teacher names and value-added data will be publicly available.
The department will not post this information on its website, but is presenting answers to frequently asked questions and other information to the public at www.fldoe.org/profdev/studentgrowth.asp
As a former teacher, I know that teaching is hard work. And, I’m confident that teachers in Florida are among the nation’s best in helping students succeed.
Growth in student achievement is an important part of an educator’s evaluation in Florida, which is the way it should be. As important as growth in student achievement is, our evaluation systems also include evidence of other important and essential aspects of teaching.
Despite being compelled to release this information after mounting our best legal efforts to protect the confidentiality of teachers’ information, we remain encouraged and feel that we have an opportunity in front of us.
We are encouraged because through this information, we can celebrate the achievement of Florida educators – the teachers who have led students to success in their classrooms, as well as the programs that trained those teachers, the school and district leaders who supported them and the families and communities who trusted them.
We also feel we have an opportunity because when we look at the data, we can see where we should allocate our resources and attention to continue improving.
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.
And, that is what we as professional educators are all about: improving teaching and learning. Until every teacher in every child’s classroom in every school has all the support and expertise necessary to add maximum value over the course of a year, we cannot rest.
Our work together on this will not be slowed. We do this work with the support of Governor Scott, whose budget proposal includes a record amount for Florida’s schools including over $8 million for the express purpose of providing the professional development school leaders need to improve student achievement. And, we do so with the support of our State Board of Education that is constantly focused on the best policies to help teachers and students succeed.
I look forward each day to our continued work to ensure Florida’s students receive a high-quality education so they may succeed in college, career and life. Thanks again for all you do each and every day.