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Hillsborough school officials take new evaluation system to parents

TAMPA — It started with a partnership between the school district and the teachers' union.

Next came $100 million in grant funding from Bill and Melinda Gates, then the arduous job of explaining the Empowering Effective Teachers plan to more than 11,000 teachers.

On Monday night, a small group of parents braved heavy rains for its chance.

Turnout at Chamberlain High School to hear Hillsborough County school officials explain and answer questions about the program was sparse. But Melissa Erickson, president of the county PTA council, didn't mind.

"It's the beginning of a conversation," she said.

For nearly two years, the district has been reinventing the way it trains, evaluates and pays teachers. The idea, officials say, is to make sure every child has a good teacher, and that every teacher is given the right tools.

Now, there are questions from parents about the system, which ultimately will base pay on performance instead of seniority.

Several came from parents of special-needs children. With so much high-stakes testing, they wondered, how could the district expect to hold onto good teachers whose students were less able to score highly on the tests?

The answer: Rather than basing pay on an arbitrary number, teacher grades will look at a student's individual progress.

"What we ask is that each student grow about as much as he is expected to grow," said David Steele, the project director.

Others wanted to know why parents do not have an assigned role in the evaluations.

"I'd just like to, as a parent, have more of a voice," said one, Janet Atkinson.

Superintendent MaryEllen Elia advised parents to fill out yearly school climate surveys, and added that when the principal evaluates a teacher, a section deals with interactions with co-workers and parents.

Then there is the matter of all that money, all those educator observations (more than 40,000 last year) and the treasure trove of data now in the district's possession. Jose Colindres, who runs a foundation for poor and minority students, wanted to know when that data might be made public for parents.

The answer from Elia: The district needs to make sure it doesn't violate a law that protects teacher evaluations the first year.

"We're still analyzing it," she said.

Hillsborough school officials take new evaluation system to parents 09/26/11 [Last modified: Monday, September 26, 2011 10:51pm]
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