Putting Education Reform To The Test

Lawmakers Get Update On Teacher Evaluations And The Student Success Act


Florida is phasing in the Student Success Act. Final changes to teacher salaries based on their evaluations will be in effect by 2014-15.

A Florida House panel heard an update today on teacher evaluations and the state’s implementation of the Student Success Act, also known as Senate Bill 736.

The Florida Legislature passed the law in 2011 that changes the way teachers are evaluated and paid in an effort to improve student learning in K-12.

The law is slated for full implementation in the 2014-15 school year, the same year Florida fully transitions to Common Core standards.

Kathy Hebda, Deputy Chancellor for Education Quality, told the committee that all 67 school districts have requirements to follow, but they have a lot of flexibility in choosing how to evaluate teachers.

“One of things that we go back to all the time when we talk about evaluation systems is that…these are really supposed to support student learning and student learning growth,” Hebda said.

“There are a variety of students in our rooms and a variety of classrooms out there in our schools, and districts do have the flexibility and the opportunity and in fact even the obligation to work on what are the best ways to assess student learning growth in those classrooms for those students,” Hebda said.

Rep. Dave Hood, R-Daytona Beach, asked if there is a way to measure “which of those evaluation systems seem to get better results?”

Hebda replied that some federal Race to the Top dollars are being used to determine “how these practices are working in school districts. There are case studies in fourteen districts underway right now to see how they’re working, and we’ll get a couple of years of annual reports on that,” Hebda said.

Rep. Karen Castor Dental, D-Maitland, was concerned about how data is used from student assessments. Dental is a former public school teacher who wondered why poverty isn’t being factored into the results.

Hebda responded, “The law prohibited four factors from being included in the model…The law said that you were not to include the student’s race, ethnicity, socio-economic status or gender.”

As districts try to find the best way to adequately evaluate teachers and tie their performance to their paychecks, Rep. Mike Clelland, D-Longwood, wants to give them more time.

He’s filed a bill that would give the state an additional two years – until the 2016-17 school year – for implementation of the Student Success Act.

“With adequate funding, teacher training, research and data, Florida will be in a better posture to implement the new teacher merit pay law,” Clelland said. “House Bill 377 will provide our educators additional time that is critically needed to make the necessary preparations.”

Education Commissioner Tony Bennett suggested to a Senate panel yesterday that the law just might need to be tweaked. “I think everything should be on the table around that discussion,” Bennett said.


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