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Saturday, Jul 12, 2014

Schools making the grade in state’s new evaluations


TAMPA — The majority of local teachers, as well as those across the state, once again received good evaluations, according to preliminary data released by the Florida Department of Education on Tuesday.

The data show that 30.7 percent of the Pinellas County school district’s teachers were rated “highly effective” in the 2012-13 school year, an 8 percent improvement over the year before. Additionally, 63.9 percent were deemed “effective,” 3 percent fell into the “needs improvement” category, and no teachers were deemed “unsatisfactory.”

Pinellas Schools Superintendent Michael Grego said it is difficult to pinpoint the reason for the improvement in his district.

“It might be that the instrument is so new. It might be a variety of things,” he said. “The more you know an instrument, the better it’s going to serve you. We’re highly engaged in improvement, and evaluations are a vehicle by which to improve.”

Neighboring Hillsborough and Pasco counties did not see as much of a change from the previous year.

In Hillsborough, 37.5 percent were rated highly effective, down slightly from 40.4 percent the previous year. Additionally, 57.9 percent were rated effective. Just 1 percent were rated unsatisfactory, and 3.3 percent were evaluated as needing improvement.

“We are completely comfortable with our numbers,” Hillsborough district spokesman Stephen Hegarty said. “We think we have a good system in place and that it is an accurate reflection of our teachers.”

In Pasco, 4.7 percent were rated highly effective, compared with 3.6 percent the previous year, and 93.6 percent were rated effective. None was deemed unsatisfactory, and 1.4 percent need improvement.

The evaluations of nearly 14 percent of the state’s teachers were not included in the report. Districts are still turning in data to the department. An updated report will be released in January and a final one in March.

Put in place statewide for the first time in the 2011-12 school year, Florida’s teacher evaluation system calls for each district to determine its own scoring rubric based on things such as students’ learning and performance growth and classroom observations. How well teachers score on evaluations eventually will affect teachers’ pay. Florida teachers are rated “highly effective,” “effective,” “needs improvement” or “unsatisfactory.”

In the data released Tuesday, the differences between districts for those teachers already evaluated were often wildly different. For example, 4.8 percent of teachers who had been evaluated in DeSoto County were rated highly effective. But 89 percent of classroom teachers in Leon County made that grade. In Collier County, no teachers were rated highly effective, but 100 percent were rated effective.

“Although there is a framework that provides requirements, there is no statewide evaluation system,” said Kathy Hebda, the education department’s chief of staff, on a phone call with reporters.

Dale Koning, who teaches in the First Responder’s Program at Pinellas Park High School, was rated as effective through observations by his assistant principal and students’ test scores in other subjects. The school district is piloting a program at five schools this year that will rely less on standardized test scores and more on how well students perform on classwork.

“The way a teacher gets evaluated is really kind of sketchy,” said Koning, a retired fire fighter who has been teaching for four years. “I wouldn’t call it super accurate, but it’s as accurate as it can be. They can’t see what I’m doing every single day. They do their best.”



Twitter: @ErinKTBO

Information from News Service of Florida was used in this report.