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Questions remain about efficacy of teacher evaluation system

If asked to identify some of more controversial legislation concerning education here in the Sunshine State over the last decade, there's a very good chance that the majority of teachers would point to the 2011 merit pay law.

For those unfamiliar with this legislation, it significantly reformed how the state's teachers are assessed, compensated and promoted in the belief that emphasizing exceptional educator performance would encourage peers and, by extension, facilitate student success.

As the years have passed, however, critics of the revised evaluation system have indicated that it has done little, if nothing, to advance this objective, as the number of teachers earning favorable evaluations has remained virtually unchanged during the years before and the years after its introduction.  

Indeed, recently released data from the Florida Department of Education reveals that the trend continued during the 2015-2016 academic year:

  • 98 percent of the state's teachers earned a rating of "effective" or "highly effective"
  • Roughly 2 percent of the state's teachers earned a rating of "needs improvement" or "developing"
  • 0.2 percent of the state's teachers earned a rating of "unsatisfactory"

Interestingly, the numbers also reveal that there was some variation among the state's 67 school districts as to how many teachers earned the highest possible "highly effective" rating, which can result in pay raises and the opportunity for a state bonus.

To illustrate, consider the following:

  • 97 percent of teachers were awarded rated as "highly effective" in Okaloosa County
  • 75 percent of teachers were awarded rated as "highly effective" in Seminole County and Orange County
  • 21 percent of teachers were awarded rated as "highly effective" in Osceola County and Lake County
  • 10 percent of teachers were awarded rated as "highly effective" in Pinellas County

While this may give some pause, experts indicate that the evaluation system, which is built around classroom observation and test score data, is setup in such a way that it gives the individual school districts flexibility in its implementation, hence the differing figures.

Indeed, they indicate that the bigger issue is whether the current evaluation system is doing what it was designed to do.

What are your thoughts?

If you are a parent or teacher with questions or concerns relating to an education law matter, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can provide answers and outline options.

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