DOE On Teacher Evaluations: "An Area That Needs Work"

Jan 24, 2013

The Florida Department of Education went before a legislative panel Thursday to talk about the state’s new teacher evaluation policies which have been under fire from the state’s largest teachers union.

Half a teacher’s evaluation is tied to student learning gains. Those gains are based on what the state estimates students should have learned, and not necessarily what they’ve actually accomplished.  before a House education panel, the Department of Education's Kathy Hebda said districts wanted the state to come up with an evaluation model:

“We did that for the teacher evaluation system and the school leader evaluation system, and we also worked with our state supervisors in school services—guidance counselors, school psychology, social work...”  Hebda said.

The Florida Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, has called the new system unfair, partly because many teachers were graded based on students they don’t even teach, a point highlighted by Democratic State Representative Karen Castor Dentel, a third grade teacher.

“...So everyone at my school got a VAM score based on 4th and 5th grade reading tests... how can we justify assigning teachers a score based on students they didn’t teach?” Dental asked.

Hebda says that kind of scenario is a temporary measure for teachers in subjects not assessed by state exams or local tests, and she admits the program, called the value-added model or VAM, is still a work in progress.

“I think that’s certainly an area we’ve heard a lot of people talking about...that’s absolutely an area that needs work in the evaluation system,” she said. 

The rollout of the evaluations was botched in November when the Department had to retract the reports due duplicate teachers reported on the rolls. Some officials have called on the state to revisit the evaluation law. Despite the flaws, 97-percent of Florida teachers received the highest ratings of effective and highly effective. The new evaluations will be used to determine pay increases and whether teachers keep their jobs.