The State Board of Education approved a new statewide standard for the test-based portion of teacher evaluations Thursday.
State law requires that teachers are evaluated each year. That evaluation must include how well that teacher's students perform on standardized exams -- and whether they do better or worse than expected as predicted by a complex statistical formula.
That formula is known as VAM, or value-added model. The VAM score counts for at least one-third of a teacher's total evaluation score.
The decision sets a statewide standard for teachers who teach in subjects with a statewide exam -- fourth through 10th grade language arts teachers, fourth through eighth grade math teachers and Algebra I teachers. State officials said the rule change will apply to about one-third of all Florida teachers.
The ratings are important because they can help determine teacher pay and which teachers require additional training or even which lose their jobs.
It's unclear how the changes will affect teacher ratings. Previously, districts were allowed to set their own goals for teachers.
State officials ran last year's test results through the new formula and found 55 percent of teachers would have earned "effective" ratings and 17 percent of teachers would have been rated "highly effective."
But that's just for the VAM portion of the evaluation -- the part based on test scores. Districts also consider in-person observations and other factors when rating teachers.
Last year, nearly 98 percent of teachers earned one of the top two ratings -- "effective" and "highly effective."
Lawmakers also changed the evaluation law to reduce the effect of test scores on evaluations.
This year, test results can count as little as one-third of a teacher's total evaluation score. Previously, test results were typically half of a teacher's score.
Board members said little about the proposed change before approving it. Board member Rebecca Fishman Lipsey questioned whether the state could simplify the presentation of VAM scores so teachers and parents could easily interpret what the results mean.