Florida teachers' lawsuit continues despite new evaluation law
"Common sense prevails in Florida."
National Education Association president Dennis Van Roekel made that statement after Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a bill mandating that teacher evaluations be tied to the performance of the students they actually teach. Although that sounds like "common sense," as Van Roekel said, lawmakers were amending a two-year-old measure imposing a new evaluation model that didn't make such connections clear.
The Florida Education Association and seven individual teachers sued over what they called the "absurdity" of the situation that had some teachers rated on the performance of students they had never met. And, although the new law takes steps toward a resolution, the FEA lawsuit won't go away just yet.
Too many unanswered questions remain, FEA leaders said in a news release. The new law doesn't create new tests for teachers who do not instruct FCAT-related courses, for instance, and it does not specify that teachers must be evaluated on the subjects they teach.
The law reads, in relevant part, "At least 50 percent of a classroom teacher’s or school administrator’s performance evaluation, or 40 percent if less than 3 years of student performance data are available, shall be based upon learning growth or achievement of the teacher’s students or, for a school administrator, the students attending that school. ... Student achievement measures for courses associated with statewide assessments may be used only if a statewide growth formula has not been approved for that assessment or, for courses associated with school district assessments, if achievement is demonstrated to be a more appropriate measure of teacher performance."
It does not address changing two years' worth of evaluations based on the old language.
"When teachers, school employees, administrators and school districts are left out of discussions to substantially change the teaching profession, we have no choice but to go to the courts," FEA president Andy Ford said in a prepared statement. "It’s sad that politicians and so-called education 'reformers' choose to totally disregard the experts in the field and impose drastic and flawed measures to achieve their goals. While we’re happy this measure passed the Legislature, there is much work to be done to fix the mess created by SB 736."