# Top 10 teachers in Florida illustrate how messy and absurd the new teacher data is

This week of February 24, 2014 the State of Florida was forced to dump a boat load of data on its teachers into the public domain (It lost a law suit to Times Union newspaper in Florida, which requested the data). Nearly every public and charter school teacher in the state is named. And next to each named teacher is a “value added measure,” a figure that’s supposed to represent how effective he is based on how much his students’ reading and math test scores surpassed what you would expect them to be.

It starts with a complicated formula that predicts how much you expect each student to learn during the year.  I’m not quite clear on how the formula factors in where a student started. It’s usually easier to show larger gains off of a low starting point. But much harder to show gains from a high starting bar. I’ve already seen at least one post from a teacher of “gifted” students, complaining that she now has a negative value added measure because her students started the year with very high test scores. Her students’ scores increased at the end of the year, but not by as much as the complicated formula predicted they should have. It’s possible that this teacher isn’t very good. But it’s also possible that she’s a great teacher. It would be fascinating to calculate how many of the teachers of advanced students received negative value added scores.

One illustration of how bad this data is is simply to look at the top 10 list of teachers in the State. (I sorted the entire database by value added measure and made this table).

Teacher Name School Name Value Added Measure Taught a course measured by the state tests
1 RHODEN,TARA ARLENE BAKER COUNTY MIDDLE SCHOOL BAKER 326.69%
 Yes
2 FISCHETTI,TRACY JANE NAVARRE HIGH SCHOOL SANTA ROSA 273.99% Yes
 No
5 YORDAN,LINETTE MARIE RONALD W. REAGAN/DORAL SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL DADE 259.38%
 No
6 BURRIER,LYNNE M FORT MYERS HIGH SCHOOL LEE 251.89%
 No
7 PHELAN,STACEY MARIE CORAL REEF SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL DADE 249.34% No
8 FERNANDEZ,HILARIO LAZARO BEN SHEPPARD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DADE 243.21%
 No
9 KEARNEY,KAREN E F. W. BUCHHOLZ HIGH SCHOOL ALACHUA 241.88%
 No
10 BUTLER,LORINE GRIER ENGLEWOOD HIGH SCHOOL DUVAL 234.52% No

It’s not immediately apparent what subjects each of these teachers teach but 8 of the top 10 don’t even teach the courses that are measured by the state’s math and reading tests that were used to calculate the value added measures. They could have been art or physical education teachers. For the teachers that don’t teach a subject measured on the test, the state still uses the students verbal and math test scores. It’s just that other teachers taught those subjects to these students.

I happened to Google a few of the teachers on the list above. It turns out Lynne Burrier-McDill is a math teacher. But when you look up the details behind her stellar value added measure, only her students reading scores were used. Go figure.

POSTED BY Jill Barshay ON February 26, 2014

[…] Top 10 teachers in Florida illustrate how messy and absurd the new teacher data is Hechinger Report: 8 of the top 10 don’t even teach the courses that are measured by the state’s math and reading tests that were used to calculate the value added measures. They could have been art or physical education teachers. […]

kafkateach

Thanks for digging into the real story behind the top 10 teachers according to the Florida VAM data. What concerns me more, however, are the bottom 10. These are people that are in danger of being unjustly fired and having their teaching licenses revoked. I looked up the very worst teacher in Florida, and she teaches 9th grade world history in a Pre-IB program. The worst teacher in Florida teaching in an IB program? I highly doubt it. I also teach gifted ninth graders Advanced Placement world history and I was ranked the worst teacher in my school, the 14th worst in Dade County, and 146th out of 120,000 teachers in Florida. Did I mention that I served as a mentor teacher for Dade County? The second worst teacher in Florida teaches at a magnet school where she surely is also teaching high level students. But let’s not overlook the opposite end of the spectrum. There were many special education teachers at the bottom of the VAM rankings as well. Not surprisingly, in a growth model, teachers who teach the high end and the low end are going to end up looking bad.

Gosh Damn! That’s a Bad VAM! | kafkateach

[…] leave).  One journalist bothered to dig up the true story behind the top ten teachers in Florida, http://educationbythenumbers.org/content/top-10-teachers-florida-illustrate-messy-absurd-new-teacher&#8230;. But no one has bothered telling the stories of the bottom ten. Those are the teachers who are most […]

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Jill Barshay

@Kafkateach Thank you for your post. It does seem that the value added formula in Florida isn’t able to calculate growth properly for students at the top and the bottom. Perhaps that’s because the tests themselves are aimed at middle students? Do the Florida tests have enough questions that are below and above grade level so that growth can be measured for students at the far ends of the spectrum?