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State: Pinellas needs to evaluate teacher training



All the recent debate about the Lastinger Center's teaching training model has put more focus on professional development in Pinellas. But an overlooked state review, released in March and attached below, may offer a better sense of the big picture.

The state, too, wants Pinellas to better evaluate its approach to teacher training.

The review, which every district is mandated to go through, was conducted in November by a 16-member team, with most of the members coming from other school districts. It found some good things in Pinellas, and some not-so-good things.

Part of the problem with the not-so-good things: Leadership turmoil in the professional development department, some of it tied to the brief but rocky tenure of Janet Hernandez.

"During the time period from 2008 to present, the Professional Development Department's leadership was inconsistent and unfocused," the report says. It also says, "These major changes and the overall instability of leadership over the past several years have had a significant negative impact on the quality of professional learning for the district and on the ratings presented in this report."

The reviewers looked at dozens of professional development standards, so there's a lot to wade through - and again, it's not all bad. (We asked the Florida Department of Education for the most recent review in Pinellas prior to the one released in March. We also asked for the most recent reviews in Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando, not only because some of y'all out there may be interested, but because we wanted to put the Pinellas findings in context. We'll share them when we get them.)

In light of the scrutiny over Lastinger's effectiveness, it's noteworthy that the reviewers gave Pinellas the lowest ratings possible on standards that relate to assessing the impact of professional learning on student performance. The review briefly notes that Pinellas entered into a parternship with Lastinger, but the reviewers were not referring specifically to Lastinger efforts when it issued its findings.

"No formal evaluations of the impact of professional learning on student achievement were provided," the report says. "Overall, the district will benefit from more systematically planned and implemented evaluations of the impact of major professional learning initiatives on student performance."

The state isn't referring to FCAT scores alone. One of the standards reads, "Districts use summative and formative data from state or national standardized student achievement measures, when available, or other measures of student learning and behavior such as district achievement tests, progress monitoring assessments, educator-constructed tests, action research results, discipline referrals, and/or portfolios of student work to assess the impact of professional learning."

The reviewers' findings on that one: "No formal evaluations were provided that linked professional development participation, implementation of the new skills in the classroom, and student achievement levels of the students in the classes of the participating teachers; therefore, no evaluation measures were available for review."

It's also noteworthy that Pinellas got the lowest ratings possible on all 16 standards related to the development and training of principals. On every single one, the review says, "Due to the multiple changes in the management of this program, insufficient information was available to document this indicator being in place."

You can read more about the state standards for professional development and how they are reviewed here.

[Last modified: Thursday, July 28, 2011 4:54pm]


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