News-Sun photo by CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY Juan Copa, bureau chief of research and evaluation for the Dept. of Education in Tallahassee, answers educators' questions Wednesday afternoon at the school board.
published: Friday, May 04, 2012
Visit from Florida DOE still leaves teachers unsure
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
SEBRING -- A special workshop was held at The School Board of Highlands County Wednesday afternoon. Two officials from the Florida Department of Education -- Juan Copa, bureau chief of research and evaluation, and Fred Heid, bureau chief of school improvement -- traveled down from Tallahassee to answer questions posed by teachers and principals regarding the new cut scores for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests, school grades and teacher evaluations.
Their appearance was part of the Chancellor of Education's statewide initiative to reach out to educators and administrators concerned about the changes and how they will affect individual students and teachers, as well as schools as a whole.
Copa made several points. He repeatedly told the audience he understood their anxiety, that it was a natural response to the uncertainty surrounding the new rules and standards -- a result of "building the car while driving it."
Copa said that the adjustments to ranking FCAT scores to a higher standard and upgrading the FCAT itself to provide more rigor was all about helping students in the long run.
"I know this seems like a hurricane barreling down from Tallahassee," he said, "but ultimately this is about improving the lives of our children." He added it was a daunting task and he recognized more communication was essential.
Questions centered on several concerns.
One is the fact that with raised standards and more difficult tests, students and schools will appear to lose ground -- students not rising to proficiency when they have in the past, and schools losing a grade.
Teacher salaries and careers will be tied to their evaluations beginning in 2014, which causes intense concern.
Teachers are also worried about fairness and accuracy.
For example, one math teacher pointed out that end-of-course tests are held weeks before the end of the semester -- how can teachers and students be held responsible for material that has not yet been covered?
Student attendance is also a concern. If children miss school, how can a teacher be held responsible for what they have not learned?
Copa said the whole system was built on student growth. To determine that, he said, 10 factors were taken into account in building the complicated statistical formula used to determine how well a teacher is doing.
"It is not about getting every student to a level three," Copa said -- three being proficient at grade level. "It's did the student meet the expected growth." He added that if someone has not been attending school, the rate of growth expected would not be as high as for a student who is always in the classroom.
"If you expect negative growth," he said, " and there is less negative growth, that's good for the teacher."
Copa agreed that tests taken well before the end of the year were not ideal, but a balance had to sought because test scores were essential to grades, and the state had to have them early enough to calculate the final scores in time.
Steve Picklesimer, president of the teacher's union, worries that, "The new system has not been validated yet. It has not been tried and looked at for where errors may occur. Even Mr. Copa admitted that the DOE anticipates problems and there will be need for tweaks along the way.
"Seems to me once again we have put the cart before the horse and ultimately teachers will pay the price whether or not the system is accurate in what it is intended to measure."
Mr. Picklesimer is correct! (by: C. Gregory - 5/5/2012)
What he means is that they need to try it out before having it affect the teachers' evaluations. Even the D.O.E. representative said this is like building a car while you are driving it. The teachers do not know how much growth students are expected to show or how many students have to show growth.
Steve Picklesimer's quote (by: Lancebekistan - 5/4/2012)
That guys logic is amazing, we can't try this because it hasn't been tried. Are there still people still dumb enough to fall into a circular argument? Maybe in a teacher's union apparently.....
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