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Florida releases teacher evaluations, Alachua fairs well

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The Florida Department of Education released a report Thursday evaluating teachers throughout Florida through a new, and controversial, system.

In Alachua County, more than half of teachers earned positive evaluations in the highly effective (295 teachers) and effective (1,098 teachers) categories and only 64 teachers fell under unsatisfactory. Fifty-one teachers have not yet been evaluated, according to the report.

This year, teachers will be paid based on their performances in the classroom. A teacher’s effectiveness depends on both a value-added model (VAM) used by the Florida Department of Education and observations used by principals.

Many educators are upset because they believe value-added scores to be inaccurate.

Jackie Johnson, public information officer for the Alachua County School Board, said a major problem is that the way districts handle FCAT scores vary from district to district.

“That’s one of the major flaws with the whole system,” she said.

According to Johnson, the state creates VAM scores for each student based on what was his or her predicted score and what the student actually received. Then, the VAM scores are sent to the districts and each district is required to create its own formula for how to use the scores.

“The state absolutely refused to come up with one consistent system that could be used throughout the state of Florida,” she said. “So as a result you’ve got 67 districts doing 67 things with those state VAM scores. And as a a result, you see these wildly inconsistent results from district to district.”

Another issue, according to President of the Alachua County Education Association Karen McCann, is evaluations are not fair because teachers are judged on students’ performances on the FCAT, even if the teacher does not teach a subject that is covered on the FCAT.

“We don’t have a test in place for every grade and every subject. But yet the law forces this part of the evaluation for every teacher,” she said.

McCann said many teachers have had a lower score, despite principals saying they are doing a great job in the classroom, because of their students’ FCAT scores that are not applicable to certain teachers because they do not teach a class in reading or math.

And these low scores on the effectiveness scale will not only affect the teacher’s merit pay, but also his or her job, McCabb said.

Another part of the data causing an uproar is that evaluations have not yet been completed for many teachers. According to the report, 48,988 teachers are still left to be evaluated.

“About a quarter of Florida’s teachers haven’t even been evaluated and aren’t reflected on this report,” Johnson said. “So not only is the report inconsistent, it’s incomplete.”

The state plans to send out final numbers by the end of the month, she said.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the initial report of these numbers were released Wednesday morning but then retracted hours later citing inaccuracies.

Pam Stewart, interim education commissioner for Florida, said more changes are underway to improve the system in the future. She said for the 2012-2013 school year, the Florida Board of Education is looking to refine evaluations and measurements used to make them.

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