Florida teachers continue campaign against value-added evaluations
The Florida Education Association on Tuesday kept up its full-court press on state leaders to back away from value-added calculations in teacher evaluations. The union conducted a news conference at which teachers talked about their concerns in using student test results crunched through VAM to count for half their performance reviews. FEA President Andy Ford called upon Gov. Rick Scott to delay implementation of the new evaluation system, imposed two sessions ago in Senate Bill 736 -- the first bill Scott signed into law. Scott has not responded. So the teachers continue to portray the evaluations as "not ready for prime time." Dawn Chapman, president of the St. Johns teachers union, said her organization supports education accountability. But she said the evaluation system was "extremely flawed, had no input from educators, and as a result has not produced a fair evaluation process."
But the union’s complaint is that the value-added data -- FCAT scores crunched through a complicated formula -- isn’t good data. At its press conference, several teachers outlined their complaints -- mostly that if they didn’t teach an so-called FCAT subject, they were judged on students they might never have taught or on schoolwide scores. “What you have just heard proves that this teacher evaluation system imposed under SB 736 is not ready for prime time. 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.
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A skeptical judge on Monday raised questions about whether it was legal for the state to move ahead with a plan to privatize nearly 3,000 health care jobs in Florida's prisons. Circuit Judge John Cooper spent more than two hours Monday hearing a lawsuit from three public employee unions that challenged a move by the state's prison agency to have private companies take over inmate health care. Cooper did not rule, saying he needed more information before he can decide whether an obscure legislative panel had the authority to sign off on the privatization proposal in September. The Legislative Budget Commission granted the Department of Corrections permission to spend nearly $58 million to pay the private companies. Lawyers for the unions contend the department needed permission from the entire Legislature. Lawmakers earlier this year, though, narrowly rejected a proposal to privatize more than two dozen prisons in South Florida. Alma Gonzalez, special counsel for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said after the hearing that the state could not "play it fast and loose" with the livelihoods of state workers. Cooper said his initial reading of state law suggested that in "plain English" the panel can tweak the existing state budget but that a "small group of legislators" cannot enact new policy. Lawyers for the state and one of the companies seeking to take over inmate health care, argued the panel's approval was legal.
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