Nearly all Pasco County teachers were rated effective or highly effective under a new evaluation system that a state education official said is a work in progress.
The state Department of Education released the first status report Wednesday on the evaluations, based on data collected for 2011-12.
In Pasco, 94.8 percent of teachers were rated effective, 3.6 percent were highly effective and 1.1 percent were designated needs improvement.
The rest, 0.5 percent, were rated "developing," a category for teachers with three or fewer years of experience. No Pasco teachers received an unsatisfactory rating.
Statewide, the numbers are 22.2 percent highly effective, 74.5 percent effective, 1.9 percent needs improvement, 1 percent developing and 0.3 percent unsatisfactory.
Kathy Hebda, Florida's deputy chancellor for educator quality, said the evaluation system, which resulted in so few low marks, is a work in progress and the process will be fine-tuned over the next few years.
"We think these numbers do reflect how districts were cautious in this first year," she said.
Aimee Boltze, Pasco's director of staff development, said the final percentages weren't a surprise because districts submit the information to Tallahassee, based on evaluation models they use.
"We've been monitoring the information for a year," she said.
Also, the state provided a framework for the evaluations, but districts had flexibility and developed their own scoring systems, Hebda said, which might be why there were wide district-by-district variations in the percentage of teachers deemed highly effective.
For example, 84.3 percent of teachers were rated highly effective in Baker and Leon counties, and none received that rating in Charlotte, Escambia, Lake, Levy and Monroe counties.
"We're not surprised with these variations in year one," Hebda said.
The new evaluations, which place greater emphasis on student performance on standardized tests, were required by the federal Race to the Top grant that Florida received in 2010 and by changes to state law that went into effect in 2011.
Long term, the evaluations could have professional consequences for teachers if they score poorly in consecutive years. Also, in 2014-15, districts must implement performance pay for new teachers based on the evaluations.
Veteran teachers will remain under old pay scales unless they opt to be part of the performance pay system.
Hebda said she sees the evaluations as an improvement over the old system, which simply graded teachers as satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Last year, 99.7 percent of teachers in Florida were satisfactory and 0.3 percent unsatisfactory, she said.
"I think the good news is that districts are using the different ratings," Hebda said. "We do see teachers fully rated in a variety of categories."
She also said this year's evaluation system is valid, even if the plan is to continue to tweak it over the next few years.
"Having something that improves each year does not make it invalid the first year," Hebda said.
Some teachers were not evaluated, the data show. Statewide, 25.8 percent of teachers didn't receive an evaluation; in Pasco, the percentage was 38.4 percent.
Boltze said all Pasco teachers who needed to be evaluated were evaluated. The 38.4 percent who weren't would include people who retired or left the district, she said.
The data released Wednesday includes numbers at the state, district and school levels but not information for individual teachers.
In addition to ratings for classroom teachers, evaluation information was released Wednesday for school administrators and nonclassroom instructional personnel such as guidance counselors, media specialists and school psychologists.
In Pasco, school administrators were 0.6 percent highly effective, 98.3 percent effective and 1.2 percent needs improvement. No one was rated unsatisfactory.
Statewide for school administrators, the numbers were 21.9 percent highly effective, 72.1 percent effective, 5.5 percent needs improvement, 0.1 percent developing and 0.5 percent unsatisfactory.
For Pasco's nonclassroom instructional personnel, 5.6 percent were highly effective, 94.2 percent effective and 0.2 percent developing. No one was rated needs improvement or unsatisfactory.
Statewide, the numbers were 32.7 percent highly effective, 65.1 percent effective, 1.4 percent needs improvement, 0.5 percent developing and 0.2 percent unsatisfactory.