TALLAHASSEE -- Once again a national outcry has forced elected officials to right legislative wrongs.
Less than two months after seven teachers, all members of the National Education Association (NEA) and the Florida Education Association (FEA), announced they were filing a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s deeply flawed teacher evaluation system, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed SB 1664, a partial fix enacted by the state’s legislature. The new law requires teacher evaluations to be based on students they actually teach.
The new law was written nearly two full school years into SB 736’s implementation, and only after the state and nation’s largest education unions filed suit claiming that SB 736 violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by requiring teachers across Florida to be evaluated based on the standardized test scores of students they had never even seen, much less taught.
“Common sense prevails in Florida,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “This is a key victory for the ever-growing chorus calling foul on flawed tests and error-ridden assessment systems used to make decisions about students’ and teachers’ futures. Assessments should be well-designed, timely and monitor individual student performance and progress across a range of subjects and skills. As this lawsuit—and the ensuing national outcry demonstrate—nothing less will do.”
While educators welcome SB 1664, the new law still leaves many questions unanswered. Most importantly, it remains unclear what measures will be used to evaluate teachers whose students do not take the FCATs. And the law does not require that teachers be evaluated on the basis of the subjects they teach, leaving the door open for art, music, science, health, and other teachers to be evaluated using arbitrary and unfair measures unrelated to their work. Florida is urged to get it right this time, and work with teachers and their representatives at the local school district level to develop evaluation policies that make sense and provide valid measures of teachers’ work.
Finally, the law leaves standing two years’ worth of evaluations under the flawed SB 736 framework. Consequently, the lawsuit will continue until all defects in the existing evaluation system are fully remedied.
“When teachers, school employees, administrators and school districts are left out of discussions to substantially change the teaching profession, we have no choice but to go to the courts,” said FEA President Andy Ford. “It’s sad that politicians and so-called education ‘reformers’ choose to totally disregard the experts in the field and impose drastic and flawed measures to achieve their goals. While we’re happy this measure passed the Legislature, there is much work to be done to fix the mess created by SB 736.”
The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with more than 140,000 members. FEA represents pre K-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational support professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.