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Calling It Flawed and Damaging, Teachers Union Wants Evaluation System Delayed

| November 23, 2012

No one is evaluating the evaluators. (Trevor Pritchard)

The state’s largest teachers union is pushing for lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott to delay a new system of teacher evaluations, saying the formula for measuring teachers’ performance is flawed and could wreak havoc on their careers.

In some ways, the fight is a continuation of a long-running battle between the Florida Education Association and state officials over whether and how to pay teachers for their performance. The union has repeatedly stressed that it is not opposed to accountability — but that the systems that the state has designed so far are flawed or unworkable.

At a press conference Tuesday morning, shortly before the Legislature convened for its organizational session, a parade of teachers talked about how they feel the “value-added model” — which relies on test scores to help measure a teacher’s impact on students — doesn’t represent their work.

Several teachers talked about being evaluated based on test scores for students who aren’t even in their classroom – for example, third-graders do not take the FCAT, so third grade teacher Margaret Goodwin was rated based on the scores of other students at the school – and not on the work of the kids she actually teaches.

“The reality is that the value-added model has nothing at all … to do with my proficiency as a teacher,” said Goodwin, who teaches at St. Petersburg’s Westgate Elementary and was ranked “needs improvement.”

FEA President Andy Ford said the new system “is not ready for prime time” and that Scott or lawmakers should pause the system until it can be overhauled. Under a state law approved by the Legislature in 2011, teachers could see their pay and ability to keep their job affected by the numbers within three years.

“Florida would rather be first than get it right, and it’s affecting real people’s lives at this point,” Ford said.

Ford had already raised the issue with Scott through letters; in response, the governor and interim Education Commissioner Pam Stewart indicated they would move forward.

Lawmakers also said Tuesday they weren’t inclined to stop the system.

“I’m shocked, shocked that a union doesn’t want to have their members evaluated on the basis of performance,” newly-elected Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said sarcastically when asked about the complaints.

Some opened the door to considering a change to the value-added model, but still ruled out pushing back the start date of the evaluations.

“When you pause, you’re moving backwards,” said Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland, who chaired the Senate education budget panel last year. ” … We want to hear what they have to say but there will be no pausing.”

And new House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, also sounded open to considering changes. But he said the specifics of the issue would be dealt with by House committees that handle education issues, which will be appointed soon.

“We’re going to make sure we have accountability and measurement in our education system, but what we’re also going to do is make sure that the accountability and the measurement forms that are there are fair,” Weatherford said. “And so if they’re not fair, we should look at that.”

–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida

6 Responses for “Calling It Flawed and Damaging, Teachers Union Wants Evaluation System Delayed”

  1. fred says:

    As long as people are involved the system will have flaws. There are always people who will play the system to their favor. It can never be unbiased as long as people are involved.

  2. Lonewolf says:

    I should of been a teacher…you never get evaluated by anyone

  3. Dave says:

    If you need a union to save your butt your most likely not worth saving , People need to learn to stand on their own feet and be accountable for their own work and actions.

  4. Samuel Smith says:

    The entire public educational system is broken, and I don’t see a solution to it other that burn it to the ground and start over. I had the “pleasure” of helping a college put together a curriculum (read: classes you need to take) for k-12 science education majors, and we discovered that the sheer amount of crap required by the state for a degree in education made it impossible to turn out a teacher that actually had enough science classes to be competent. It was also discovered that most of the education classes required by the state were never actually used in the classroom.

    This is just the very peak of the joke that is public education in florida. The bar was lowered way way down thanks to no child left behind so that the graduation numbers stay up and funding continued to flood in. Then along came the FCAT, which in itself is farce of a test that is questionably evaluated, and now teachers are required to somehow raise the bar on students that have never been trained to jump.

    I could literally post pages and pages of examples of how broken things are, how “education” is placing the emphasis in the wrong place, about how the state has screwed things up beyond repair.

  5. Liana G says:

    Samuel, agree with most of your post. But the “crap” required by the State for a degree is directly influenced by higher educational institutions pushing irrelevant policies and classes, and taught by some professors who shouldn’t even be there. I remember an instance where college students had to retake an entire class because the professor did not cover the standards required for the class. I also remember a class I took, ‘How Children Learn Mathematics’, that was more about history/politics/civil rights than learning about how children learn math.

    I’ve sat in classrooms with prospective teacher who showed up to class with only their cell phones and cigarettes. I’ve also sat with prospective teachers who spent most of their time on FB and other social network sites while class was in session. These were not all young adults fresh out of high school. The system needs accountability; starting with higher education and their influence on policies that benefit their own self interest – namely personal greed / out of control college tuition – all the way down to setting the highest standards in teacher preparation and accountability.

    • Samuel Smith says:

      Oh I agree, and the blame in academia for that lies at the feet of academics with degrees in education. Ultimately though, it’s the legislature that puts its stamp of approval on whatever a statewide curriculum committee comes up with.

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