Looking Beyond School Letter Grades

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BAY COUNTY - Parents across Bay County might want to take a closer look at the value added measurement system or VAM.

VAM scores are different than school letter grades because they compare students in similar learning environments, instead of using only FCAT scores.

"It finds other students just like Dawn across the state of Florida and it figures out how did they do on the test and as a group then, what is the average of their particular learning they had," Dawn Capes, Bay District Schools Teacher and Administrator Appraisal Systems Coordinator said.

The biggest part is that it looks at how much your child improved each year they take a standardized test. VAM scores range from unsatisfactory to highly effective and they're tied to teacher raises.

In the 2011 to 2012 school year, more than 90% of Bay County's teachers were deemed effective or above. Only a small percentage didn't score well.

VAM is only in its third year, but school administrators say it's a better evaluation system.

"Levels the playing field and it compares apples to apples and oranges to oranges. Whereas a school grade, under the Florida accountability system, puts everyone in the same pot and you come out with the same measure," Everitt Middle School Principal Shirley Baker said.

Bay County is one of the few to fully implement the state's new teacher appraisal system that includes the VAM.

"There may be instances where we might have larger numbers of effective and a district near us might have higher numbers of highly effective and it's really going to be because the way we managed the information was different," Capes said.

About the only drawback is parents don't know too much about VAM.

"It's just a matter of re-educating that now Florida has another measure that communicates a little more accurately because it uses more data," Baker said.

All school districts are supposed to implement the new teacher evaluation system by the 2014-2015 school year.