Today's news -- December 11, 2013



Lawmakers urged to delay teacher evaluations

Results of Florida teacher evaluations released last week gave most teachers good marks, and showed the system is still a work in progress. In the coming months, lawmakers say they will wrestle with the question of whether school districts have made enough progress -- including finding assessments for students in every grade and every subject -- in time to tie the new evaluations to teachers’ pay and job security next school year. Calls to push back the deadlines are getting louder. The Florida Association of District School Superintendents has proposed phasing in the new system over three years. Legislation filed by state Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, would delay the state’s performance-pay system for teachers. Senate Education Chairman John Legg, R-Lutz, said lawmakers would receive an update early next year on school districts’ progress developing new exams to evaluate teachers in “hard-to-measure” subjects like physical education. “There is a growing concern about the local exams being able to be out by the time-frame,” he said. “As a committee, we’re open to looking at that.” State Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, is also the CEO of the superintendents association. He said if lawmakers plan to make changes before the new system takes full effect, they likely will have to make them this session. Statewide, 98 percent of teachers received evaluations that show they’re performing well, according to preliminary data released last week by the Department of Education. In Leon County, nine out of 10 teachers were rated “highly effective,” giving the school district Florida’s largest proportion of teachers with the highest possible rating. Many teachers’ evaluations were based on test scores from students in subjects they did not teach. David Clark, who has overseen both labor negotiations and Race to the Top grants in Leon County, said for that reason, the district designed its system to avoid penalizing teachers for the 40 percent of their evaluations that are tied to student test scores, which helps explain the initial results. “I think, in the initial years, it was probably the inclination of every school district to do something to cause no harm as they implemented the new evaluation system,” said David Worrell, the president of the Leon Classroom Teachers Association. Earlier this year, lawmakers passed SB 1664, requiring teachers’ evaluations to be based on their own students, in the subjects they teach.


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