BROOKSVILLE — The state graded Eastside Elementary School harshly last year, giving it the first F grade in the history of the Hernando County School District.
But its teachers fared much better.
For the 2012-13 school year, none of the school's teachers earned a score below "effective" in the state's evaluation system, according to newly released data from the district.
Thirty-eight teachers — the vast majority — earned scores of "effective" while three earned scores of "highly effective." None fell into the remaining categories of "needs improvement" or "unsatisfactory." Nor were any of them classified as "developing," a term reserved for teachers with three or fewer years of experience.
The results mirror the previous year's scores, the first under the new controversial statewide evaluation system. No teacher at Eastside, then a D school, earned a score below "effective."
"To earn a grade of an F, it isn't just about the teaching practice and what happens in a classroom," said superintendent Lori Romano. "It's a combination of things. I think the teaching practice is one component of that. I also think there are a lot of variables."
Added assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, Ken Pritz: The evaluation method is still a work in progress.
"This tool is evolving," Pritz said.
In a nutshell, the two systems use different data.
Teacher evaluations rely heavily on administrator observation and expected student growth on standardized tests. Unlike school grades, the evaluations don't factor in proficiency — whether a student is performing at grade level in a specific subject.
The teacher evaluations are also based in part on subjective observation from an administrator.
In Eastside's case, teacher evaluations were lowered by the student achievement portion, which composes 50 percent of the evaluation. On that section, the school earned a grade of a "needs improvement," according to the district. The observation component boosted the scores.
Romano said the district is training principals and trying to create more consistency in their scoring.
The new evaluation system was developed partly because the previous evaluation format ranked more than 99 percent of Florida teachers as "satisfactory."
Across the district, teachers again earned high marks.
For the 2012-13 school year, more than 97 percent of teachers earned a score of "effective or better." Roughly 48 percent of teachers were considered to be "highly effective."
That's substantially different than last year, when only 17 percent were rated as "highly effective," according to the district.
It translates to roughly 500 more teachers falling into the category of "highly effective."
Hernando, as was the case last year, saw large disparities between the schools.
Nine schools had at least 75 percent of teachers earn the top evaluation, while ten schools had fewer than 25 percent of teachers earn that distinction.
Suncoast Elementary had the highest percentage of teachers earning a "highly effective" score of all the traditional schools in the district, with 91 percent — 61 teachers — earning the mark. The previous year, the school had four teachers in that category.
Pritz says there's good reason for that — the school improved in almost every area with a data-driven approach.
"Teachers can actually improve in their class," he said. "That's what we're trying to do."
Central High School came in at the other end, with only two teachers earning the highest evaluations.
Former superintendent Bryan Blavatt, who led the district last year, said he had a lot of misgivings about the evaluation system.
He feels it doesn't give a total picture of the effectiveness of a teacher.
"It's very hard to put a lot of credibility in the instrument until they get it refined," he said.
"It still doesn't make it any easier to identify those that are not effective or those that are not doing the job," he said.
Contact Danny Valentine at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.