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Florida Releases 'Value Added' Data on Teachers

Florida has become the latest state, after New York and Ohio, to release "value added" data on its teachers to news outlets, after losing an open-records battle in the courts to the Florida Times-Union.

State officials warned against using the data to judge teachers' performance, but the newspaper has created a database that will allow the public to look up individual teachers' names. 

Value-added is a statistical method that aims to isolate the impact of each teacher on his or her students' standardized test scores. 

Reaction from the teachers' unions was swift and condemned the release.

"Once again the state of Florida puts test scores above everything else in public education, and once again it provides false data that misleads more than it informs," said Andy Ford, the president of the Florida Education Association, in a statement. "When will the DOE stop being beholden to flawed data and when will it start listening to the teachers, education staff professionals, administrators, and parents of Florida?"

The FEA and its parent, the National Education Association, sued the state last April over the state's teacher-evaluation system, which includes value-added measures among other factors. The unions say that the VAM model unfairly grades teachers on the performance of students they don't teach and in subjects they don't teach; only 30 percent work in grades and subjects measured by the state's standardized tests. They extended that criticism to the Feb. 24 data dump.

"So for 70 percent or more of teachers, the VAM does not even attempt to measure the teacher's actual teaching and yet the VAM data released purports to rank their performance," said the unions' statement. "The Legislature openly recognized this flaw last year in passing SB 1664, which requires future VAM scores to be based upon a teacher's actual students. But most of the data released by the DOE does not take into account the new law, making all of the data meaningless." 

Nationally, New York and Ohio have released similar reports on teachers, and a Los Angeles court also recently ruled that a newspaper could access the district's value-added information. 

Even proponents of using VAM as a component in teacher reviews, such as philanthropist Bill Gates and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, say that the scores shouldn't be publicly released. Instead, the data should be used to target teachers for additional help, they say.

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