Commissioner Smith: 'Wide amount of misinformation' on SB 6
Florida Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith is sending the following message to newspaper editorial page editors, along with responses to a series of frequently asked questions about SB 6. Among those questions: how the 5 percent hold back for the "performance fund" will work and how "growth models" to measure student gains will be developed. (H/T to Naples Daily News.)
"For the past few weeks I have read increasingly negative opinions from the majority of your papers about SB 6/HB 7189," Smith begins. "Unfortunately, given the wide amount of misinformation that has been circulated about this legislation, it’s easy to understand how some of your opinions may have developed in this fashion."
Read on for the rest.
Editorial Page Editors,
Please see the message below from Education Commissioner Dr. Eric J. Smith. Thank you.
Florida Department of Education
For the past few weeks I have read increasingly negative opinions from the majority of your papers about SB 6/HB 7189. Unfortunately, given the wide amount of misinformation that has been circulated about this legislation, it’s easy to understand how some of your opinions may have developed in this fashion. As many of you may know, I do support this legislation as I believe it is a powerful step forward in how we recognize the hard work and effectiveness of our educators as well as underscoring our state’s firm belief in the capability and capacity of all our children. However, regardless of my opinion, I thought it prudent to ensure that as you develop your commentary you have factual, accurate information with which to work off of. The below FAQs were developed by the Department’s Teacher Liaison, who analyzed the legislation and worked with our General Counsel and other program staff to present a neutral, fact-based analysis of the bill in response to an outpouring of teacher questions she was receiving. As a point of fact, our Teacher Liaison has received hundreds of responses thanking her for the clear and un-emotional representation of this information. The feedback she has received indicates there are many Florida teachers indeed whose voices are not being heard. This FAQ exists only to inform so that opinions can be generated with facts in hand. Thank you for your consideration of this information.
Dr. Eric J. Smith
Florida Commissioner of Education
Evaluations for All Teachers and Administrators
Present Situation. Florida law presently requires teacher evaluations to be based primarily on student performance; however, the law does not define “primarily” and there is wide variance among school districts on how student performance may or may not be factored into teacher evaluations. The law does require that student performance is measured by FCAT and local assessments for those subjects and grade levels not measured by the FCAT.
Proposed Changes Under Senate Bill 6. Beginning in 2014-15, Florida’s evaluation framework will provide educators information about their students’ growth and whether their teaching practices are related to that growth. Under Senate Bill 6, more than 50 percent of classroom teachers’ evaluations will be based on demonstrated student growth of students assigned to the teacher, and more than 50 percent of a principal’s evaluation will be based on demonstrated student growth of students assigned to his or her school. The remainder of the evaluation may include consideration of other factors, such as knowledge of subject matter and ability to effectively deliver instruction.
Both appraisal systems will have four levels: highly effective, effective, needs improvement, and unsatisfactory. The bill allots three years for the State Board of Education, the Department of Education, teachers, and local school districts to develop a student growth model based on a value-added calculation*, which takes into account unique student characteristics. To ensure that the system is helpful to beginning teachers, they will be evaluated at least two times per year. All teacher appraisals can include multiple data sources, including parent input, to determine a teacher’s effectiveness. These data sources will be determined by local districts and teachers.
· How can we be sure that these student growth models and evaluation systems will be fair to teachers, especially those in challenging situations?
It is imperative that these student growth models be developed with teachers. In fact, the bill requires that the Department collaborate with teachers and performance pay experts in developing the levels of performance. This bill gives teachers and districts time to work on the best way to assess student growth. Florida’s educators and leaders will work together using current data and research (including models currently in use in other states) and design a system that will provide the best information on how learning is taking place in our schools.
· What if my students do not show growth during a given year?
While student growth is the most significant factor in a teacher’s annual evaluation, it is not the sole factor. The bill requires multiple measures of teacher performance and allows school districts to review student data over a three year period to inform the teacher’s annual evaluation.
*The Department will provide Information and resources on value-added calculations at a later date
District End of Course Assessments
Present Situation. Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) presently includes grades 3-10 for reading and math, grades 4, 8 and 10 for writing and grades 5, 8, and 11 for science. Some districts also use end-of-course assessments in other subjects.
Proposed Changes Under Senate Bill 6. By 2013-14, districts must develop or acquire and implement valid and reliable exams or end-of-course assessments for grade levels and subjects that are not assessed by the FCAT, College Board Advanced Placement (AP) courses, International Baccalaureate (IB) courses, Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) courses, or national industry certification. These will be used by districts to improve instruction in their schools by measuring student growth for each student. This information will be used to inform teaching practice, professional development and then provide the basis for aligning the teacher and principal evaluation systems to student learning outcomes.
· Will this increase the number of tests a student has to take?
No. Students already take final exams and interim assessments created by individual teachers. This will improve the quality of the assessments students take, and will maintain teacher involvement and local control over how these assessments are utilized.
· Will the Department provide assistance to districts in their assessment development?
Yes. The Department will assist districts by providing technical assistance and support as needed. Districts will also be encouraged to work together to form consortia for assessment development or item banking, and will enlist professional associations to develop performance measures in courses that are skill and performance based.
Contracts for Classroom Teachers
Present Situation. Current Florida teachers are eligible to receive a Professional Service Contract (PSC) if they hold a Professional Certificate and have met their duties and responsibilities satisfactorily for three years. Prior to receiving a PSC, they are placed on probation for the first 97 days of employment, during which they may be let go without cause or quit without breach of contract. After the initial 97 day probationary period, they may be issued up to four annual contracts, which may be nonrenewed without cause at the end of each annual contract.
Proposed Changes Under Senate Bill 6. For teachers who are newly hired by a district on or after July 1, 2010, the first year of employment would function as a probationary contract year, similar to the current 97-day period. A teacher would then hold annual contracts for four more years which would be renewed based on the superintendent’s recommendation. To earn an annual contract in the sixth year or after, a teacher would need to document earning “effective” or “highly effective” ratings in two of the last three years.
· If I currently hold a PSC, will Senate Bill 6 invalidate my PSC?
No. The proposed changes do not eliminate PSCs for teachers currently holding these contracts. The proposed contract requirements only impact teachers who are hired on or after July 1, 2010.
· If I am currently employed but do not hold a PSC, and continue to meet all of the requirements, can I still receive a PSC?
Yes. The bill is specific to newly hired teachers, not existing teachers.
Professional Compensation and Salary Schedules
Present Situation. In Florida, school districts and local unions negotiate salary schedules that include a base salary, as well as adjustments or increases to that base, sometimes called “steps.” Currently by law, all districts give automatic steps in their salary schedules to teachers for earning degrees or credits beyond a bachelor’s degree and for earning years of experience, while some districts give supplements or bonuses for teaching in a high need school or subject or for additional responsibilities.
Proposed Changes Under Senate Bill 6. Rather than basing salary schedule increases on advanced degrees or years of service, school districts and their unions would negotiate, effective July 1, 2014, automatic increases to teachers’ base salaries (not supplemental or bonus funding) based on the following:
· teachers’ annual evaluations;
· teaching in a high need subject;
· teaching in a high need school; or
· taking on additional academic responsibilities.
· Is it true that teachers could lose half of their salary in one year if their students don’t demonstrate academic growth?
No. While the original wording of the bill included language proposing this type of measure, that wording was removed and is no longer a part of the bill.
· Will the base salary of a teacher who is currently employed decrease if this bill goes into effect?
No. There is nothing in the bill that requires or even contemplates districts decreasing a teacher’s base salary. The change that would take place in 2014-15 would be to the adjustments, increases or steps in the salary; in 2014-15 these increases would be based on the reasons listed above rather than degree level or years of experience. New language to the bill also states that districts may consider advanced degrees as part of an educator’s performance evaluation.
· Will all salary decisions be based only upon FCAT?
No. Compensation decisions will be based on a teacher’s evaluation, which will include the academic growth of his or her students. This growth will be calculated using assessments aligned with the Sunshine State Standards which have been or will be developed by districts with their teachers.
Present Situation. Professional certificates must be renewed every five years. To renew a certificate an educator must:
· submit an application and pay a fee;
· earn at least six college credits or 120 in-service points.
Proposed Changes Under Senate Bill 6. Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, the requirements for renewal of a professional certificate must include documentation that the teacher was “effective” or “highly effective” for four of the preceding five years.
How will this affect me if I don’t have five years of appraisals?
According to the bill, the State Board of Education is required to adopt rules to include an equitable option for individuals who do not have five years of appraisals. (For example, this would include teachers taking extended leave, out-of-state teachers, private school teachers entering the public school sector, etc.) The rule development process will include extensive public input, collected through a variety of communication methods.
Performance Fund for Instructional Personnel and School-based Administrators
Present Situation. School districts throughout the state receive annual funds based on student enrollment (often referred to as the Florida Education Finance Program or FEFP). These funds are currently used to essentially operate local school districts in compliance with statute.
Proposed Changes Under Senate Bill 6. The bill establishes that school districts and charter schools must allocate funding for the development and implementation of performance appraisal systems, end-of-course assessments and performance pay. In the bill, this fund is referred to as the Performance Fund for Instructional Personnel and School-based Administrators.
Starting in 2011-12, the Performance Fund for Instructional Personnel and School-based Administrators will be used to develop performance appraisal systems and end-of-course assessments as necessary on a district by district basis. The end-of-course exams must be finalized by 2013-14 and the appraisal system must be implemented by 2014-15. At that time, these funds must then be used for teacher salary increases.
· Will districts receive additional funds to implement this bill?
No. The bill requires that districts dedicate five percent of their existing FEFP funds to meet these requirements.
· What if a district does not use their entire performance fund?
For those districts already in compliance, any portion of the fund not necessary to meet these requirements may be used by the district as FEFP funds.
· What if the district does not develop and implement performance appraisal systems, end-of-course assessments and/or performance pay?
The bill outlines that noncompliance with these requirements results in the withholding of performance funds, which is an amount equal to five percent of the total state, local, and federal funds allocated to the district through the FEFP.