LAND O'LAKES — New performance-based teacher and principal evaluations took a step closer to reality for Pasco County schools on Tuesday.
The School Board took an initial look at a draft proposal for the new style of evaluations, which are getting a big push from both the state Legislature and the U.S. Department of Education.
The formula would include a mix of student learning gains, the employee's professional development, the school's performance and other factors.
Human relations director Renee Sedlack stressed that the documents could change dramatically before they come back for adoption, but that they will return with a focus on established best practices and student and school results because that's the direction Florida is headed.
But many gaps remain in the development of the standards, employee relations director Kevin Shibley told the board. The district does not have adequate student assessments to appropriately gauge the effectiveness of all teachers, he said, and it does not have set definitions of the new categories — unsatisfactory, needs improvement, effective and highly effective — that both teachers and principals could be rated on.
"That is what will take more time," Shibley said. "What does 'needing improvement' in designing a lesson plan look like?"
The draft proposal would give teachers up to 75 points for their ratings on state approved "accomplished practices" such as professional responsibility, learning environment and continuous professional improvement. They could earn another 25 points for meeting expectations in areas such as parent communication and mentoring responsibilities.
That would make up 49 percent of the evaluation.
The other 51 percent would include the percentage of their students making learning gains, the percentage of adequate yearly progress criteria their school makes, their school grade and other factors such as the school's level of poverty and whether they teach in a critical shortage area.
These are items that appear in controversial state legislation that's spurring teacher protests at the end of this week before going before lawmakers next week.
"It is clear that this is not going to be easy," School Board chairwoman Joanne Hurley said. "It is clear the districts that have embarked on this already have experienced some heated discussion. We cannot expect to get through this without controversy. This is going to be a tough road we start down."
It will require a change in mind-set, assistant superintendent Tina Tiede said. But at least everyone is talking about improved teaching and learning, added assistant superintendent Ruth Reilly, and that's the right place for schools to be focusing.
Sedlack and Shibley said they will be attending a workshop at the end of the week to look into other ways to adopt new evaluations. "We don't know what is going to happen after this weekend," Sedlack said.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.