Tampa Bay Times: SB 736 Teacher “Evaluations Earn Failing Grade”

From the editors of the Tampa Bay Times:

It was obvious to Florida public school teachers six weeks ago that the state’s new system for evaluating them uses imperfect data that makes the evaluations of dubious value. Now a statewide snapshot of results should make that clear to everyone else. The state Board of Education and legislative leaders need to fix the evaluation system that is the foundation for moving to merit-based teacher pay or risk losing more credibility for their entire effort to hold public schools accountable.

I have no idea how the state board, the legislature and Rick Scott for that matter, could lose any more credibility of education. Too bad the Times misses out on the disconnect between these results and the state’s other accountability schemes. And heaven forbid anyone listen to teachers. But not listen – and mock they did. Senate president Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) scoffed at teacher’s warnings last week “I’m shocked, shocked that a union doesn’t want to have their members evaluated on the basis of performance.” The Times dismisses Gaetz:

But the results bear out what critics warned would happen ever since the Legislature, at Gov. Rick Scott’s behest, rushed passage of SB 736 in 2011. For all the merit in trying to assess which teachers are the most effective so they could be paid more starting in 2014-15, lawmakers have not given school districts the time or resources needed to build fair assessment tools.

The law anticipated using student performance on end-of-course subject exams to inform 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. Such exams don’t yet exist for the vast majority of classes students take. But rather than delay implementation until such measurement tools could be designed, the Legislature said school districts could substitute results from the FCAT, even for the teachers — be it art, Spanish or kindergarten — whose classes are never part of FCAT testing

Gaetz, who was a pretty good superintendent of schools, knows that SB 736 essentially requires comparing this year’s apples to last year’s oranges among pears, pineapples and  bananas. His demagoguery of teachers is purely political and disappointing coming from someone who’s real-time experience and leadership would greatly benefit the state right now.

How might legislators and the state board “fix the evaluation system” which has never been attempted before and doesn’t even come close to reflecting results of the state’s other accountability measures? And while graduation rates and college freshmen remediation rates cause so much concern? Look for soothing words about Common Core Standards and cheery reassurances about PARCC tests replacing FCAT. Its all they have left.


About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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