Pasco district leaders taking closer look at teacher concerns
Criticisms raised in a class-action grievance by Pasco County elementary teachers are getting intense scrutiny by the district's new administration.
Assistant superintendent Amelia Van Name Larson told the Gradebook she is conducting a thorough review of all the tests that the schools employ to determine which are mandated and which are optional, which are useful in informing instruction and which are not.
"Keeping a pulse on whether or not kids are learning is critical. But there are varied ways of doing it," Van Name Larson said, noting that projects and classroom observations, for example, often can provide as much information as written exams. "I don't want teachers wasting time on things that are not valued for decision making."
She said she would provide a detailed report to the United School Employees of Pasco, the School Board and superintendent's office, including recommendations of how to find balance between measuring student performance and limiting reliance on tests. Teachers have complained that they are required to test too frequently.
Van Name Larson also is responding to teacher concerns that the district's performance evaluation model is not being fairly implemented. She noted that the system the district adopted, based on Robert Marzano's research, really is intended to review teachers' abilities to use instructional methods considered best practices.
Too often, though, principals have not been fully trained in how to identify whether those methods are being properly implemented in the classroom, she said. To fix that, the district will spend time in February better teaching principals about the background of the 41 separate characteristics included in the evaluations, she said, "So we really are looking through the same lens. ... The instructional framework has to come first."
The USEP has delayed its request for hearing before the School Board on its grievance while awaiting responses to these key issues. Van Name Larson said she has heard the union's concerns and hopes to resolve them amicably.
"Some of the issues of the union are also concerns we have," she said.