Assessment

Fla. Teachers Score Well in New State Evaluation System

By Laura Isensee, The Miami Herald (MCT) — December 05, 2012 5 min read
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The state’s Department of Education released its first report on new, controversial evaluations for teachers Wednesday.

The test score-driven evaluations—dubbed “value-added”—were mandated by the Florida Legislature last year and combine traditional observations with student scores and other data.

The new evaluations rate teachers if they are highly effective, effective, need improvement, developing or unsatisfactory for the 2011-12 school year.

Among teachers evaluated with new data-driven formula, 22 percent were ranked highly effective; 75 percent were rated effective and barely 2 percent were told they need improvement. About a quarter of Florida teachers were not included, according to the report.

Kathy Hebda, the state’s deputy chancellor for educator quality, said the report is preliminary and emphasized it covers the first year of a brand new system, which will continue to develop. A final report for 2011-12 will be available in January.

The results for districts vary. For example, the number of teachers who “need improvement” in Broward was 238, compared to nearly 2,000 in Pinellas. One reason, Hebda said, is that districts have flexibility in how they include student performance in evaluations. Also, the state and district administrators showed an “abundance of caution” in the first roll-out.

“Any time you do something this big, you need to do it very carefully and very thoughtfully and that’s what they’ve done,” Hebda said. “I think it is a valid instrument.”

The new evaluation system and rankings give a better picture of teachers than the previous system, she said. There were only two grades for teachers: satisfactory and unsatisfactory under the old system and the state received reports that less than .03 percent of Florida teachers were ranked unsatisfactory.

“The good news is that districts are using the different performance ratings. There are folks rated in a variety of categories,” she said.

The report for Broward’s classroom teachers:

• 1,606 teachers were ranked “highly effective”

• 20,851 teachers received “effective”

• 238 instructors got “needs improvement”

• 30 novice teachers were ranked “developing.”

The ratings for the majority of Miami-Dade’s classroom teachers—more than 20,000—were not available. Hebda said the state had not received all the needed information from the Miami-Dade district yet, but expected to have all information for the final report in January. Of the few evaluated, 72 Miami-Dade instructors got “highly effective;” 93 got “effective;” one received “needs improvement;” and two beginning teachers received “developing.”

John Schuster, spokesman for the Miami-Dade district, said all employees had been evaluated, but the data has not been sent to the state because “we are still at the table in statutorily required collective bargaining.” He said the United Teachers of Dade and the district are required to negotiate cut scores for the evaluation system.

“We will upload the data when we have concluded our contractual obligations to negotiate the cut scores. Considering the implications of this undertaking, getting it right is far more important than expediency of simply getting it done,” Schuster said in an email.

By the 2014-15 school year, the new data-driven evaluations will be tied to tenure and salary. Teachers with several years of poor evaluations may be let go.

Teachers get a “value-added” score, which by then will count for half of their professional grade. That is calculated by a complicated, statistical formula, which is supposed to factor several years of test scores and other data related to a teacher’s classroom, school and students.

Lisa Maxwell, who is the executive director of the Broward Principals’ and Assistants’ Association and who served on the state committee for the model, said the initial results gave both good news—and indications there’s a lot of room for improvement.

Maxwell said the fact only 2 percent of Florida teachers got needs improvement is “phenomenal” because it is based on “measurable, reportable, statistical data. “Now we are literally reaching into a classroom and going kid by kid and saying what is their performance and measuring it.”

The other good news, Maxwell said, is that some of the unintended consequences that were feared—like penalizing teachers at poor schools—are not occurring.

But there are other unintended consequences. In Broward, Maxwell said there are reports that dozens of high-performing teachers who instruct top-performing kids received “needs improvement.” The statistical model is based on student growth, so top-performing students don’t have as much room to improve.

“The model has a ceiling effect,” Maxwell said. “That’s the sort of stuff that needs to be adjusted. The intention is not to penalize the best and brightest.”

While individual teacher’s grades are not public right now, Hebda said a year from now, parents should be able to check them out, just as they can review other indicators of educational quality, like state-issued school grades and their own child’s report card.

“It would be very important, a year from now, if a parent wants to see a teacher evaluation, that they would have a full explanation from the school district as to what was contained in that evaluation,” Hebda said.

The measure has been extremely controversial and the state teachers union, the Florida Educators Association, pressed Gov. Rick Scott to suspend the new evaluations, saying it’s not ready for “prime time.”

Among the state union’s concerns:

• There wasn’t sufficient data for the statistical formula for all teachers, since not all subjects have a standardized test.

• There were inaccuracies in the value-added scores. In a memo, Juan Copa with the DOE advised districts that a teacher’s score could include students they didn’t teach or could be missing students.

• Teachers received their evaluation many months after the school year ended.

“It clearly is a flawed process that needs much tweaking and revamping before teachers and parents can trust in the validity of the value added model,” Ford said in a letter.

Copyright (c) 2012, The Miami Herald. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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