VAM scores under fire by school board

Elected School Board Chairman Bill Mignon, is joining the public debate and condemnation of a decision by the First District Court of Appeals last week, brought against the Florida Department of Education by the Florida Times-Union newspaper in Jacksonville for access to Value Added scores of state educators, principals, and grades awarded to public schools based, in part, on the teachers VAM scores.

Historic City News reporters were granted access to the records which were inspected by managing editor, Michael Gold, on Friday. Historic City News takes the position that the information asked for in the lawsuit, held no exemption that would preclude its release to the public. The court agreed.

Mignon is concerned that the public will misinterpret the information that has been released regarding the performance of St Johns County teachers, according to a published report in the St Augustine Record; the sister newspaper to the Florida Times-Union.

The system that grades the graders is the Department of Education’s best effort to comply with state laws that require performance to be the yardstick by which teacher salaries are determined. Both results and performance must be applied in making those evaluations.

The St Johns County School District is the envy of the state. An objective score, fairly derived and equally applied, would be an optimum solution for measuring performance of our school teachers and schools. Reasonable and scholarly debate exists that calls into question the Value Added Model at this time.

Historic City News has decided not to publish individual teacher scores until such time as the evaluation process has matured — not because we feel the scores are not public record, but because we have no way to evaluate the complex algorithm that is used to derive them.

Mignon is a longtime educator. He is a former principal who now evaluates Flagler College interns in the classroom. He says that there is a great deal of concern and uncertainty about how performance is measured.

He says the release of the information has already hurt teachers in a year where the stress level is already high as teachers cope with increasing changes, including the upcoming shift to Common Core State Standards from FCAT.

“The scores I’ve seen are just not a true reflection of our teacher’s performance,” Mignon has said publically. “None of us are objecting to being held accountable; but, it has to be just and fair as it relates to how we evaluate teachers.”

Mignon went on to say that he didn’t see ranking schools based on the Value Added Method as a valid way to appraise the schools, either. He may be correct, however, on that point, we are not as convinced. We already have several year’s grades for 33 St. Johns County schools that reflect improvements and shortcomings without compromising the confidentiality of teachers or, by simple deduction, their students.

We are publishing the grades achieved, by school, within St Johns County, for the past four years. The information may contain errors and is presented to Historic City News without warranty by the Florida Department of Education.


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