Pasco schools not ready for district-level assessments tied to evaluations, officials say
As lawyers argue the constitutionality of SB 736, school districts focus on the practicality of the law and its requirements.
One of the key issues on many minds is how exactly to implement district-level tests that would tie to teacher evaluations (if the court doesn't overturn the model). Pasco County's new assistant superintendent for student achievement has advised superintendent Kurt Browning that their district is far from ready for the 2015-16 state deadline.
"Pasco County has over 300 courses that need an assessment to be developed under the mandate of SB 736 without adequate time, money, buy-in, capacity/expertise, technical infrastructure to insure quality of test development, test security, administration, scoring, analysis (and) reporting," Amelia Van Name Larson wrote in a recent e-mail to Browning.
She was responding to a query from Patricia Levesque, executive director of Jeb Bush's Foundation for Florida's Future, as to whether districts would support a legislative delay for districts to create and use such tests for evaluating teachers who don't teach areas attached to state exams. Pasco was among a handful of districts, including Duval, Broward, Miami-Dade and Hillsborough, to hear from Levesque.
Van Name Larson further advised Browning that several Florida-approved courses do not have standards or descriptions that lend themselves to writing valid tests. Moreover, she continued:
"The districts, including Pasco County, lack a team of qualified staff with expertise in best practices in test development and psychometrics. The current budget does not allow for personnel resources or the training for test developers and psychometricians. There is a definite lack of financial resources to develop valid and reliable tests, create multiple test forms, pilot items and set cut scores for each high-stakes test. Further, there is a lack of staff with the expertise to develop sophisticated VAM for each test. The state is contracting with a firm that specializes in this area, and due to the complexity of VAMs, they are delayed in finalizing their VAM models for a handful of courses."
Districts are in their second year of the new evaluation system. So far, most have used FCAT results to rate teacher effectiveness, imposing school-wide results for those who don't teach FCAT related courses. The model has been criticized as unfair and statistically unreliable. Lawmakers have said they would be open to tweaking the system, or postponing full implementation, though probably not doing away with it altogether (lacking a court order).