published: Friday, April 29, 2011
District preps for teacher evaluations
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
SEBRING -- Now that Senate Bill 736, called the Student Success Act, is law, school districts are scrambling to fulfill its requirements.
Teacher and administrator evaluations are at its core.
The Commissioner of Education is required to approve, and the State Board of Education to adopt, formulas for schools to use in measuring student growth. School districts are required to administer assessments for every course offered, especially those not measured by the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which will be the primary source of student performance data.
Student measurements are emphasized because teachers will be judged by how well their students do on the standardized tests. By law, of the total teacher evaluation, 50 percent is based on those scores.
The state allows some flexibility regarding the remaining 50 percent of the evaluation, which is based on observations and documentation, as long as a variety of sources contribute to those observations and are weighted proportionally -- like feedback from school administrators, parents and students, or newly created peer teacher evaluators.
Each district has to submit its plan to the DOE by June 1 for approval. Districts which do not meet the deadline will be denied a share of the Race To The Top (RTT) federal dollars, which Florida won competing against other states.
The legislature is not providing any funding for the new evaluation system, which is why local district administrators plan on using a portion of Highlands County's share of the RTT funds -- $1.14 of $2.2 million -- to pay for the new system.
This will not be a permanent funding source, however, because RTT money will only be available for two years.
The high cost of the proposed evaluation system comes from the need to hire those specialists to do the independent evaluating.
The district proposes to hire a coordinator on a special one-year assignment -- school year 2011-12 -- to institute the system. That individual would be paid $104,628.
The next year, the coordinator would be replaced by an educational research specialist, paid $79,524 annually.
In addition, beginning this summer, six peer teacher evaluators would be hired to both do evaluations and provide feedback for teachers. Those salaries add up to $397,626.
After additional funds are added for development training and travel. The proposed system will cost $1,139,404 for its first two years.
School superintendent Wally Cox and district officials were up-beat and positive in their presentation during a workshop on Tuesday. Assistant Superintendent Becky Fleck said that while there were questions still to answer, and despite the proposed system would be expensive, it did have value in being fair, consistent and research-based. The particular model being debated, she said, was chosen by a committee that included the president of the teacher's union, teachers, principals and district officials.
"They felt after research that it provided the greatest amount of reliable, fair and defensible information," Fleck said.
School board members, on the other hand, have reservations.
Andrew Tuck expressed doubt six people would have enough time to fairly evaluate the 677 teachers covered by the evaluation law. "I don't see how we can do this with six people," he said.
For one thing, each evaluator will have to provide four to five formative feedback sessions per year for every teacher on an annual contract with less than four years in the classroom. Then there are the more experienced teachers, who will have fewer feedback sessions, but still require some.
Tuck is also opposed to one provision of the evaluation process -- the fact that an evaluation may be changed within 90 days of its being issued. This is because FCAT scores do not arrive until the end of the school year and teacher evaluations have to be ready sooner.
"I never knew of an evaluation you could change in 90 days," he said.
School Board member Ronnie Jackson, a retired teacher and coach, had another concern. "We need to improve the evaluation process," he said, but added he still had concerns having to do with the cost of the proposed system and the fact he worried an evaluator could not be fair to a variety of teaching styles.
"I don't want us to get to where there is only one way of teaching," he said.
Several board members pointed out the total $2.2 million coming from RTT would make up the district's shortfall. Tuck and Bill Brantley wanted to know if the money could be used to stop the proposed technical education teacher layoffs.
RTT dollars, however, cannot be used for every purpose. Before making a decision the board wants a full understanding of how the money could be spent.
Being a workshop discussion, no action was taken Tuesday.
unproven evaluators (by: Sane Person - 5/1/2011)
The six peer evaluators will have no credibility if they haven't ever been evaluated under the new system. Imagine a scenario where a peer evaluator gives a low grade to a teacher, who then outperforms the evaluating teacher. Who should be evaluating whom ? Until the teachers have a three year track record of performance under the new system, they need to stay in their classes and keep their opinions to themselves.
shame, shame (by: John - 5/1/2011)
Speaking of monies, we should look into how much money the school board spend to use firemans field.
Money (by: Jan - 4/30/2011)
They get paid as much as a first year teacher does. Have them put in the hours required to do the evaluation.
shame on you (by: tiredofgames - 4/30/2011)
It is a crying shame that this 2.2 million is not being put into educating our children, but being spent on procedure and salaries. Salaries of district employees who are already overpaid.
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