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In a Victory for Florida Teachers, Judge Rejects State’s Onerous Evaluation Process

| August 23, 2012

florida teachers evaluations union

Evaluate this. (Cramo Communications)

Siding with two teachers and a union, a state judge found Wednesday that Florida education officials did not properly carry out part of a 2011 law that has fueled a long-running controversy about linking teacher performance and pay.

Administrative Law Judge John Van Laningham, in a 57-page order, rejected a state-approved rule that would spell out how school districts should evaluate teachers, declaring it “wholly invalid” because of flaws in the way it was pieced together.

“Material procedural flaws, such as those described in this final order, taint the resulting rule in its entirety and cannot be cured without starting over and redoing the process,” Van Laningham wrote.

The order deals with the somewhat-arcane process of state agencies, such as the Department of Education, adopting rules to carry out the details of broader legislation. Van Laningham did not reject the underlying law, only the rule that included requirements for how school districts should measure teacher performance.

Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association teachers union, issued a statement after Van Laningham’s ruling, calling it a “huge victory in our battle for fair, reliable and valid evaluations.”

“It’s time for the state’s education bureaucracy to stop trying to impose its will on teachers and administrators and start having a meaningful dialogue with us to put together a fair evaluation system that is understandable, valid and accepted,” Ford said.

The FEA, Okaloosa County teacher Karen Peek and Indian River County teacher Beth Weatherstone filed the challenge March 30, after the state Board of Education signed off on the rule.

The challenge is part of a bigger fight about the Republican-controlled Legislature’s move last year to use student test scores and other criteria to evaluate teacher performance and link it to pay.

The law, dubbed the “Student Success Act,” gave the Department of Education the role of approving and monitoring evaluation systems that districts use. It also included criteria that will lead, in part, to teacher performance being tagged as highly effective; effective; “needs improvement;” or unsatisfactory.

Many teachers and the FEA unsuccessfully argued against passage of the law. The union also has helped spearhead a constitutional challenge to the law in Leon County Circuit Court. That lawsuit is pending.

Anthony Demma, an attorney for the teachers and union in the rule case, said school districts have already put in place teacher-evaluation processes as part of the federal Race to the Top program.

Demma said he thinks that with Van Laningham’s order, those teacher-evaluation standards will remain in place this school year. He said it likely would be difficult to revise the invalidated rule and move forward with new requirements during the course of the year.

Cheryl Etters, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said in an e-mail that the agency was reviewing the order.

Van Laningham focused heavily on how the department strung together the rule. State law requires proposed rules to be published. But Van Laningham found the department did not properly incorporate some key teacher-evaluation requirements in the published information about the rule, instead linking to material on the department’s website.

–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida

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4 Responses for “In a Victory for Florida Teachers, Judge Rejects State’s Onerous Evaluation Process”

  1. John Boy says:

    Everything this Bald Headed Fraudster has done since stealing the election has been either challenged or overturned. I have yet to meet anyone who admits they voted for him except for a few religious idiots like him who are also career criminals or American Taliban Members.

  2. TomP says:

    I find it somewhat ironic that the same time an article is reporting a massive failure of students in Flagler to score even an average grade on the ACT that another article talks about the unions fighting against teacher evaluations. Perhaps the evaluation should simply be reviewing the ACT scores. Based on that the teachers should also get a big fat F for their efforts. An average score below 19??? Shameful!

  3. PCer says:

    @TomP – imo, the reasons ACT scores are so low is because teachers are being told by their administrators to focus on FCAT scores. When teachers teach to that test, everything else, including ACT and SAT scores suffer for it. Stop blaming the teachers, blame the administrators who are demanding that teachers teach to the test rather than teach to the standards.

  4. Out of curiosity says:

    I don’t think the union is fighting against evaluations, they are asking for evaluations that are fair. Look at what went on with FCAT this year, would you want your job eval based on that?

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