Putting Education Reform To The Test

Florida Schools Get ‘A Lot Of Flexibility’ Designing Teacher Evaluations

FL Parental School Choice Consortium/flickr

Mike Kooi with the Florida Department of Education says districts may come up with a variety of teacher evaluation plans, as long as they comply with the Student Success Act.

Teachers shouldn’t expect an apples-to-apples comparison when looking at new state-required evaluation scores.

That’s because evaluations will vary — not just between charter schools and regular public schools — but between public school districts.

Mike Kooi, Executive Director of the Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice, has been trying to set the record straight after a legislative committee took up a new charter school bill earlier this month. The bill would set standards for opening a charter school and add regulations to existing ones, but it left the teacher’s union and others with the wrong idea.

“They were under the incorrect impression that the bill took charter schools out of the requirement for teacher evaluation systems, and that just simply isn’t the case,” Kooi said.

By 2014-15, all public school teachers in Florida – including those at privately run charter schools – will have to be evaluated based on standards set forth by the Student Success Act, also known as Senate Bill 736.

But schools are getting a lot of flexibility creating those evaluations.

“The law has certain parameters, including 50 percent being based on student performance. But there is leeway in how you get to that point,” Kooi said. “So that’s what the department is working with our districts on, and we also have a contract with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to provide training to our charter schools as well.”

Kooi says districts have the discretion and authority to develop a system that meets the requirements of the law.

The result could be many different plans among districts and charters, as long as each plan complies with the law.  Kooi says all teachers will “be evaluated to some degree based on student performance.”

“The point is that there’s flexibility,” Kooi said, “and it’s really just a matter of working with our contractor to understand the requirements and to develop a plan that meets those requirements and then to implement it, of course.”

Districts are charged with making sure charter schools meet the evaluation requirements, then the Florida Department of Education will review district plans for compliance. The state is using Race to the Top funds both to train and help districts develop teacher evaluations systems.


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