Putting Education Reform To The Test

Teacher Evaluation Results: Effective or Needs Improvement?

Welcome to Florida, where all the teachers are above-average.

GeoBlogs / Flickr

Welcome to Florida, where all the teachers are above-average.

Why are we doing this again?

That’s a question people are asking around the state after seeing the second statewide batch of teacher evaluation data this week.

Nearly 98 percent of teachers earned ratings of “highly effective” or “effective.” And the percentage of teachers earning the top rating increased to one in three statewide from one in five teachers the prior year.

Some districts reported they didn’t have a single poor-performing teacher. And only one administrator in the entire state — of more than 6,200 rated total — earned an “unsatisfactory” rating.

“Nobody’s hiring record is that good,” The Tampa Bay Times wrote in an editorial. “The teacher ratings don’t come close to reflecting reality.”

The Bradenton Herald‘s editorial board said teacher ratings look great, until they’re compared to school grades.

“Across the state, 98 percent of teachers rank in the top two categories — a figure that should be reassuring,” they wrote. “Yet the high number of failing schools — despite all those “highly effective” teachers — continues to be troublesome.”

(Some caution on comparing teacher evaluations to school grades — they measure different things.)

The goal was to replace traditional evaluations, where just about every teacher earned at least a satisfactory rating because — the line of reasoning went — principals and administrators were unlikely to deliver hard truths to their colleagues.

So in 2011 Florida lawmakers required school districts to switch to what’s known as a value-added model. It’s a statistical formula that weighs 10 factors, such as class size, attendance and more, to predict how well a student should on the the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Teachers whose students beat the projected score earn a higher rating. If the students do worse than projected, the teachers earns a lower rating.

The formula-based evaluations frequently have large margins of error and teachers don’t understand how they can earn a top rating one year and a poor rating the next.

Right now, the results in most schools are based on FCAT reading and math scores while districts develop end-of-course exams for every subject. That means an award-winning science teacher might be evaluated based on test results of a subject she hadn’t taught.

Districts were allowed flexibility when designing their teacher evaluation systems, so comparing the ratings across district lines isn’t always an apples-to-apples comparison.

So why go through the cost and stress of new evaluations if we end up with the same Lake Wobegon-esque results?

Senate President Don Gaetz told the Florida Times-Union he isn’t ready to dump the system, even if it is currently flawed:

Gaetz said he recognizes that the system isn’t perfect, but he’s not willing to abandon the system because in some ways it still keeps score on how teachers are doing.

“Some people just don’t like scoreboards,” Gaetz said. “But if we wait until we have a perfect system, we won’t have any system. We’re not going to have an absolutely perfect evaluation system, but we ought to start with one that’s performance-based on the students you teach and from results that are valid and reliable.”


  • midgardia

    Given the high amount of time and training that our teachers receive, in addition to the experience they gain on the job, it is not only usual but *expected* that the vast majority receive high marks.

  • valricoslash

    Sen. Gaetz is a moron if he thinks this system presents a fair evaluation of teachers around the state. Each administrator should have to apply a bell curve to their staffs
    with only so many rated highest, the majority in the middle, and a small group
    in the under achiever grouping. If all the teachers are “the best” then the group as a whole is just average because no one is better than the other. The true higher performers are lumped in with everyone else. In the end what you have is unionized mediocrity where the real achievers are frustrated by the system.

  • professor

    First of all, test scores are not a measure of individual teacher ability to improve student achievement. Most kids have more than one teachers, especially in grades 6 to 12. And most teachers don’t teach the two tests that are major factors–readings and math. What about the band teacher? This value-added model of teacher evaluation is not fair and should be abandoned. Second, this is the model that was forced on teachers, and now people complain when the teachers do well. Too bad. So quit complaining that you didn’t find lots of bad teachers. Third, if a normal curve were applied to teacher evaluation, half of the teachers would be less than average. Do you want to fire lots of teachers based on this system? Where will you get replacement teachers? Lots of questions remain about this poorly designed system.

    • Allison Beal

      I agree, test scores are not a measure of the individual teachers ability to improve student achievements. I also agree with you that the teacher evaluation system is flawed. How do you propose to improve it? I am a student at UF and am minoring in Florida Teaching and am concerned about how this evaluation system affect new teachers and what I need to do to improve the system.

  • Jim Johnson

    Let’s get the to real problem. Fact of the matter is there is one major correlation at every failing school. It is called student population, when there is a high free and reduced lunch population the school is poor performing. When families and children are not held accountable and there is no personal responsibility, they are not successful in school. We have been throwing money at these issues of poverty for decades with very little success. We should be funding early child development for families. From ages 1 to 3 are the most crucial to brain development. When kids don’t get the proper stimulation they are hindered for the rest of their lives. By the time they get to Kindergarten its almost too late to form any new brain connections and their counterparts are already to far ahead to catch up. Fact- a child born into poverty hears 30 million fewer words by age 3 than a child born
    to “well-off parents.” Most teachers, not all, do they best they can with what they have to work with. However they are not miracle workers, it is impossible to take a child who has limited brain function and get them on the same level as a child who has been stimulated and taught since birth. This talk that we are failing our African American and Latino students is nonsense. Their parents and communities are failing them, not our schools.

  • DdSH

    Yes, Evaluations are a joke. Think about it though, most teacher get into education because they want to do a good job and positively affect the next generation, certainly no one gets into it for the money. My point is that MOST teacher (not ALL) are doing their best and going above and beyond. Certainly some teachers were not meeting goals before, however, now that they think they are being watched more carefully, they are putting in a stronger effort so low percentages of ineffective teachers actually makes a lot of sense.
    The idea that kids and schools are FAILING and STILL FAILING after this evaluations system is not surprising at all, in fact it also makes a lot of sense. TEACHERS ARE NOT THE ONLY ONES RESPONSIBLE FOR KID’S SUCCESS! THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES ACCOUNTABLE FOR IT THOUGH AND THAT MY FRIENDS IS THE REAL PROBLEM.
    STUDENTS – They don’t want to learn, they can’t learn with visions of cell phones and tablets, ipods, and TV’s in their heads. They don’t appreciate or realize what an education can do don’t know what happened since I was a kid but they are different and NOT in a good way.
    PARENTS/FAMILY – Be good role models, help your kids with their Homework, read to them, support them, empower them, but most of all DO NOT make excuses for them. Stop enabling your children, you are making MONSTERS and you will regret it later when they turn on their creators.
    COMMUNITY/SOCIETY – Respect Teacher as they do in all the Countries that are whooping us. In other countries teachers are HIGHLY paid and Respected ABOVE all other professions because it is known those other professions could not exist without Education. Teach that Respect and Reinforce it too children so they understand the power of an education.
    LEGISLATORS – Make laws that penalize Parents for Kids Failing too and for their out of control behavior so other kids can learn.
    ADMINISTRATORS – Make schools a pleasant place to be and support Teachers instead of demonizing them, and the current system of recruiting Administrators is SERIOUSLY flawed. Most, NOT ALL THOUGH, get into Administration/Principal Positions because they either stop loving Teaching, want to/need to make more money, or BOTH. Administrators should be elected by Teachers for 1 term based on actually BEING an amazing teacher that inspires other teachers.

  • Reese

    Answer this…… if you have a child in school, currently, do you feel like your child will be successful without your involvement at all? NO! Politicians, and others who aren’t, nor ever have been, in a low-performing school can blame it on the rain, but the truth still remains: Your home life has all to do with your school success. Not to say that a teacher can’t make a child’s life better, or encourage them to reach for the stars, but in cases where that happens there is still someone (aunt, uncle, grandma, mom, dad, older sister, etc) that’s encouraging them to do better than they did. It takes a village to raise a child, and I’d like to add, to educate one. A teacher should be held accountable for educating, because that’s what their paid to do. But they shouldn’t be the ONLY ONES held accountable for a child’s education.

    • Allison Beal

      I absolutely agree with you. Parents that are actively involved in their child/children’s education is vital not only to the child’s education but also to the emotional development.

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »