Pasco school district brings teacher evaluations to negotiating table
The Pasco County school district proposed Tuesday to make it easier for teachers to get a "highly effective" rating in the district's evaluation system.
The recommendation to redefine the way teacher evaluations are scored came as part of an overall plan, presented during contract negotiations, to shift the focus of the effort to a "growth model" that helps teachers improve their craft, negotiator Kathy Scalise said.
"We have called it growth and mean that, want that," Scalise told representatives from the United School Employees of Pasco. "It's a craft, which means it can be honed. There is always something that can be improved."
It also means providing a fair and equitable way for teachers to demonstrate their skills, she added.
That's why the district has proposed that the definition for a "highly effective" teacher be the teacher receives 60 percent of observation elements at Level 3 or higher, with no elements at Levels 0 or 1. Last year, they needed to get 60 percent of items at Level 4 or higher, with no 0's or 1's, prompting many complaints that achieving the top rating was near impossible.
Just 3.6 percent of Pasco teachers earned a "highly effective" evaluation in 2011-12, the most recent available data. Some high achieving schools, such as Land O'Lakes High, had none.
Scalise further explained that the district wanted to redefine the ratings, so they don't just show that teachers demonstrated teaching strategies but also that they indicate whether they got the "desired effect" from students.
She said there has been confusion among teachers as to exactly what the ratings mean, and how to earn an "innovative" mark. Teacher negotiating team member Pat Connolly asked whether positive outcomes would be considered above performance of certain teaching methods.
"That is where we are and that is definitely a strong focus," Scalise said.
Toward the goal of using evaluations for improvement, the district also proposed adding three to five informal observations for every teacher each year. These would not count toward the formal result, but would provide feedback for teachers to use in their instruction.
The district also opened the door for discussions on what tests will be used to ensure that every teacher is evaluated based on the students they teach and no others, as newly enacted state law now requires.
The USEP team reviewed the proposal and had several questions. Lead negotiator Jim Ciadella said he would bring a counterproposal to a future session. Last year, bargaining over evaluations took several months before the sides reached a deal.