The School Board unanimously voted on Tuesday to tweak the system Pinellas uses to evaluate teachers — but that doesn't mean members are happy.
"We are building on a very flawed and invalid system," board member Linda Lerner said. "I'm voting for this because I think it's a little better — not because it improves what we have to work with."
The Florida Legislature required most school systems this year to radically transform how they evaluate teachers, relying on a complicated measure of teacher performance called the "value added measure," or VAM.
But the plan has come under fire, because many teachers are evaluated based on the performance of students who aren't even in their classrooms. In such cases, "They're being rated based on students they have no interaction or contact with, so they have no involvement in their learning. But we're holding them accountable for that," said board member Rene Flowers.
Using the new teacher evaluation system, about 77.9 percent of Pinellas teachers were rated as effective or highly effective, and the rest fell into three other categories: needs improvement, developing, or unsatisfactory.
After making the adjustments in the evaluation scale, about 90 percent will be considered effective or highly effective and the remainder will fall into the three lower categories.
Although the state required school boards to use the new evaluation tool, individual school systems are allowed to essentially set their own grading scale for their teachers. The School Board's vote on Tuesday made some changes in that scale, based on input from teachers and administrators who studied the issue.
"I don't think we're there yet but I think it's all we can do at this point, and I'm glad we're doing that," board member Peggy O'Shea said.
In the current version of the evaluation system, student scores on the FCAT standardized test play a major role. But in the future, a new system of standardized tests will mean more teachers can be evaluated based on the performance of their own students.