Miami-Dade Elected School Boards Have an Obligation to Know the Educational Laws Governing Their Domain: FCAT Data IS NOT the Only Option by Which to Judge Teachers


Upon challenging the MDCPS school board at the January 15th MDCPS Board Meeting to direct their staff to implement more appropriate teacher evaluation methods other than FCAT Reading and Math for all teachers (including Chemistry, Calculus, PE, Art, Journalism, Photography, History, etc), a few board members interjected saying their hands were tied, that they had to use Florida FCAT data and the VAM methodology.  Here is my response:

Last night you the board heard that your “hands are tied,” that you have no authority and option to implement something more accurate and helpful to teachers (and thus students) than smearing everyone with FCAT Reading Gains as evaluation measures.

I’m glad Ceresta pointed out that MANY board members and superintendents ARE doing things beyond the dais to bring about needed change.

But one need not go further than Florida Statutes to see your hands are NOT tied.  One need look north to some of our rural counties to see where they are trying to get it right.
Florida Statutes have said since 2011:

(3) EVALUATION PROCEDURES AND CRITERIA.—Instructional personnel and school administrator performance evaluations must be based upon the performance ofstudents assigned to their classrooms or schools,

…a school district’s performance evaluation is not limited to basing …performance of instructional personnel…solely upon student performance, but may include other criteria … to evaluate instructional personnel …performance, or any combination of student performance and other approved criteria.(a)  …The evaluation criteria must include:1. Performance of students.—At least 50 percent of a performance evaluation must be based upon data and indicators of student learning growth assessed … for subjects and grade levels not measured by statewide assessments, by school district assessments as provided in s. 1008.22(8). Each school district must use … an equally appropriate formula for measuring student learning growth for all other grades and subjects, except as otherwise provided in subsection (7).

here are the relevant points of this subsection(7):


(c) For a course that is not measured by a statewide assessment, a school district may request, through the evaluation system approval process, to use a student achievement measure rather than a student learning growth measure if achievement is demonstrated to be a more appropriate measure of classroom teacher performance. A school district may also request to use a combination of student learning growth and achievement, if appropriate.

(e) For classroom teachers of courses for which the district has not implemented appropriate assessments under s. 1008.22(8) or for which the school district has not adopted an equally appropriate measure of student learning growth under paragraphs (b)-(d), student learning growth must be measured by the growth in learning of the classroom teacher’s students on statewide assessments, or, for courses in which enrolled students do not take the statewide assessments, measurable learning targets must be established based upon the goals of the school improvement plan and approved by the school principal.

Since 2011, Suwannee District Schools has done exactly this.  As their FL DOE Evaluation Document on file from 2011 says:

“State Board Rule 6B-4.010, F.A.C., requires that where a district “…makes substantive modifications to an approved school district instructional personnel assessment system, the modified system shall be submitted to the Department of Education for review and approval.”  The purpose of Suwannee School District’s redeveloped Performance Evaluation System is to increase student learning growth by improving the quality of instructional, administrative, and supervisory service (1012.34 (1)(a), F.S. To this end, Suwannee School District is committed to a cycle of continually updating the evaluation system to reflect state models, best practices that emerge over time, and changes in policy.   Our system was created by a representative team of stakeholders, including principals and teachers, serving on an evaluation system redevelopment committee.”

Their alternative and APPROPRIATE teacher evaluation system includes:

  • AP exam pass rates for AP teachers
  • ACT, SAT, PSAT results from students taking those tests for teachers with these students teaching applicable content
  • Interim exams/assessments analyzed with Thinkgate, STAR Reading, STAR math, etc (majority) blended with a minority amount of FCAT growth
  • Industry Certification results for Vocational teachers (like the Veterinary Certification exams)
  • For students who fit none of these categories, Suwannee County School Board & Staff worked with principals to develop measurable learning targets aligned with each school’s School Improvement Plan (as provided for legislatively).

Since 2011, Suwannee County has been joined by AT LEAST 3 other counties (Columbia, Union, & Lafayette) in providing more APPROPRIATE performance measures for staff evaluation.

Furthermore, since 2011, the FL DOE has published and provided resources and assistance to districts to do just this, solutions including such things as teacher FINAL EXAMS!see

Here’s Gilchrist county’s exemplary program of using TEACHER EXAMS as performance measures:

I wrote to the MDCPS staff (including the lawyers since I had a lawsuit against the ratification process that adopted the current INAPPROPRIATE performance measures) in September 2011 to apprise them of Suwannee’s creative, motivated, and APPROPRIATE performance measure attempts.

I got no written response.  I heard a committee of teachers would be formed to generate better methods.

Obviously no better methods were generated…whether because no committee formed or if one formed, no better ideas were generated.

I KNOW, you all know, that the State VAM “is a sham.”

But this is NOT what I was addressing last night.

There are 2 layers of insanity that we teachers are dealing with  - the State VAM SHAM and the district layer of insanity -
1) The lack of attention/commitment to generating APPROPRIATE measures of performance.

2) The capricious generation of “Cut Scores”: Last year it was based on [VAM +/- multiple of the Standard Error].  This year, sometime after January 6th, the formula was published (changed) to [VAM/(Standard Error)].  What will it be next year?  When will we be told?  When will we be trained?

3) Some point between August 2011 and today, someone decided to make a choice between FCAT Reading and FCAT Math (now EOC Algebra?) for Schoolwide performance data for teachers NOT teaching assessed classes.  We were not told.

4) Someone chose the higher of the two, Reading or Math……but not the higher of the 9th Grade Reading or 10th Grade Reading?

5) Someone chose a weighted average of the 9th Grade Reading and 10th Grade Reading……but not the weighted average of the Reading and the Math?

6) Someone chose to do the weighted average on the number of teachers……but not on the number of students whose scores are being used?

7)Someone chose to describe Categories 1, 2, & 4, leaving 3 “Assign category 3 to all other teachers”……but had they defined any other 3 and left category 4 to “all other teachers,” the summatives would be very different.

My attempt last night was to goad you board members into intervening here and push your staff to produce something more healthy for your workers in the trenches, where morale is hurting for a number of reasons, now most recently because of the District Insult added to the State Injury of VAM. Your hands are NOT tied.


Shawn Beightol

ChemistryFerguson Sr. High School

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