Court Ruling Puts Part of Parent Trigger at Risk


Within current parent trigger legislation is a provision which requires parents be notified if their child’s teacher has been rated as “ineffective” for two straight years. But a Tallahassee circuit court judge’s ruling yesterday raised doubts about using the value-added data which would make such determinations. Florida Times-Union reporter Topher Sanders has this:

A circuit judge in Tallahassee has ruled that Florida’s value-added teacher data is not a public record, but the Times-Union plans to appeal his decision in its lawsuit against the state.

Judge John Cooper on Monday signed the order presented by the Department of Education and the Florida Education Association, which had successfully argued that all materials that make up an evaluation are exempt for a year.

“We’re disappointed in the judge’s ruling, but not surprised,” Times-Union Editor Frank Denton said Tuesday. “We certainly will appeal and believe we will prevail at the higher level.”

Denton said the public has a right to the material and the paper has a responsibility to pursue the information.

The newspaper’s appeal will go to the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the state’s teachers union, referred the Times-Union to the union’s attorney, Ron Meyer, but his office was closed Tuesday evening

Because the value-added data is developed from an average of three years, Cooper’s order would mean the public would have access only to value-added data that’s at least four years old.

The Times-Union had argued that because the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test data used to calculate value-added figures is public, and the value-added formula is public, the result created when the state crunches the data for teachers should not be exempt.

Value-added is the difference between the learning growth a student makes in a teacher’s class and the statistical predicted learning growth the student should have earned based on previous performance. The state uses the most recent three years of data to develop a teacher’s average value-added score.

The value-added calculation is half of a teacher’s total evaluation. The other half comes from observations made by principals and other personnel.

Even Bill Gates, the most influential value-added proponent recommends it not be made public and it’s inclusion  in Parent Trigger is both odd and hasty. Even Florida proponents of using value-added data to rate teacher realize the current system is flawed and needs work. They know it’s not ready.

The legality of making teacher evaluation rankings public puts a key portion of Parent Trigger legislation at risk. The wisdom of including such stipulations in legislation intended to address the future of a school appeared disconnected in the first place. As their legislative colleagues understand that  value-added data from SB 736 isn’t ready for prime time, Parent Triggers sponsors, Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Carlos Trujillo, would demonstrate significant acuity and goodwill in withdrawing this portion of the bill.

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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