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Teacher Evaluations

Public school employees deserve to have fair, transparent evaluations. A fair evaluation system would provide robust mentoring and support to new teachers and facilitate growth for veteran educators. The current system does neither.

The core purpose of teacher assessment and evaluation should be to strengthen the knowledge, skills, and classroom practices of professional educators. This is one of the most important changes that can happen to help increase student achievement.

Unfortunately, the state of teacher evaluations in Florida today falls far short of that goal. Instead, the primary purpose of the evaluation reforms forced upon educators by the Legislature seems to be to categorize and rank teachers using faulty metrics—rewarding those at the top and firing those at the bottom.

How faulty? Both the American Statistical Association and the American Educational Research Association have cautioned against using the Value-Added Model (or VAM) to make high-stakes decisions for teachers.

When FEA challenged VAM in court, Judge Mark Walker acknowledged using VAM to make employment decisions was unfair but not illegal. Almost five years after Walker’s ruling, Florida’s Board of Education is still forcing schools to make employment decisions based on VAM.

In addition to the fundamental problems with the use of the VAM, far too many instructional personnel also see unfairness in their administrator’s observations.

Whether it is because the administrator is overburdened and simply doesn’t have sufficient time, or if the administrator lacks the expertise, or simply that the evaluation model the district is using is flawed, the reality is few teachers receive meaningful feedback from their administrator.

As a result new teachers often don’t receive the support they need and veteran teachers are not given feedback that encourages their professional growth. In the end it is the students who suffer from Florida’s flawed evaluation system.

It is worth remembering that SB 736 — the same law that created the current evaluation nightmare — also led to an explosion in testing, mandatory annual contracts for new instructional personnel, and bonus pay mandates which undermine step raises and have led to wage stagnation.

So it would appear the unfair evaluation system is just another front in Florida politicians’ attack on public education. These evaluation systems have strayed far from the true intent of facilitating educator growth and have become a tool used to demoralize and stigmatize Florida’s teachers.

There is no doubt that the current system of evaluation is failing Florida’s educators and by extension our students. The Florida Education Association calls on the Legislature and the governor to work with us and with educators around the state to develop an evaluation system which will fulfill the goal of developing educators and ensuring student success.

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