Friday, December 15, 2017
Politics

PolitiFact Florida: As Crist notes, some teachers' pay reflects grades of students they don't teach

Pay raises for new teachers in Florida will be partially tied to how their students perform in the classroom, but school districts are struggling to find ways to measure how a teacher affects a student's score on a test.

Using reading and math scores from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test may make sense for reading and math teachers, but what about educators who teach electives, language and arts courses? Those subjects do not come with a standardized test.

It's a fundamental flaw in the merit-pay system, one that prompted Gov. Charlie Crist to veto the Republican-led proposal in 2010.

Crist's successor and potential 2014 opponent, Gov. Rick Scott, signed a similar bill into law in 2011.

"The results were, unfortunately, as expected," Crist wrote in a Sept. 22 column in the Tampa Bay Times. "Today many Florida teachers are at risk of having their pay impacted by the performance of children who are not even in their classrooms or subject areas."

We decided to see if Crist is right: Are Florida teachers "at risk of having their pay impacted by the performance of children who are not even in their classrooms or subject areas"?

Under the law, teachers are evaluated based on a scoring system with categories of highly effective, effective, needs improvement and unsatisfactory. (Performance-based evaluations started in the 2011-12 school year but will not be tied to salary increases and job status until the 2014-15 school year, at least statewide.)

How districts measure a teacher's influence is basically up to them.

About half of the teacher's grade is based on student performance. For teachers who teach reading and math in grades tested by the FCAT, the assessment data was pertinent.

But for the thousands of teachers who teach other subjects, such as art, music or social studies, or those grades that are not measured by FCAT, districts had to think of another way to gauge their performance.

Most went with schoolwide FCAT scores, which measure reading (grades 3-10), math (grades 3-8) and science (grades 5 and 8). The decision was controversial enough that seven teachers, with the backing of the Florida Education Association, sued the state's education commissioner and board. One plaintiff, Hernando County teacher Bethann Brooks, was evaluated based on reading test scores of freshmen and sophomores, but Brooks taught juniors and seniors health science. In the new system, Brooks' performance fell from "highly effective" to "effective."

As evidence to back up his claim, Crist sent us an April 2013 Washington Post blog post highlighting the lawsuit.

But that's not the latest news on this issue.

Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, tried to improve the 2011 law by inserting language in a 2013 bill that said teachers had to be evaluated on the performance of their students.

But the change was hardly a magic wand. It told districts what not to do, but not how to avoid it.

Take Pinellas County, where the School Board tried to comply with the new state law by passing a plan that greatly reduced the number of teachers evaluated based on students they did not teach. However, many teachers will continue being evaluated by student scores in subjects they do not teach. Schoolwide reading and math FCAT scores will continue to be used in evaluations for teachers in non-core subjects, such as art, music and physical education, as well as middle and high school science teachers.

Hillsborough County schools were in a better position than most, because the system developed end-of-course exams for all academic subjects including electives a few years ago thanks to a grant, said district spokesman Stephen Hegarty.

The goal is to have an assessment for every subject, said Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters, but it's not ready yet.

Our ruling

Crist is echoing a legitimate concern of teachers, administrators, lawmakers and unions of the performance pay law. Crist neglects to mention the Legislature tried to address this in a new law that says teachers can only be evaluated by students in their classrooms.

Until more assessments are prepared for more subjects, some teachers, particularly in non-core classes or in grades without assessments, will continue to be evaluated not based on the subjects they teach but on overall student scores in FCAT reading and math.

Crist's point is largely accurate given the first round of evaluations, but a new law aims to reduce the problem.

We rate this Mostly True.

This item has been edited for print. Read the full fact-check at PolitiFact.com/Florida.

Comments
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he’s not leaving Congress anytime soon, trying to squelch rumors that he will walk away in triumph after the Republicans’ treasured tax bill is approved. Politico and the Huffington Post published re...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence is delaying his weekend departure for the Middle East as Congress nears completion of a tax overhaul, his office announced Thursday. White House officials said Pence now plans to leave for Egypt on Tuesday so he...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

WASHINGTON — A draft statement former FBI director James Comey prepared in anticipation of concluding the Hillary Clinton email case without criminal charges was heavily edited to change the "tone and substance" of the remarks, a Republican senator s...
Updated: 5 hours ago
William March: AG candidate Ashley Moody called ‘liberal;’ bill takes Orlando money for Tampa transit

William March: AG candidate Ashley Moody called ‘liberal;’ bill takes Orlando money for Tampa transit

Ideological divides in Florida’s Republican attorney general primary race are producing some early negative campaigning, with a strong Tampa Bay area flavor.State Rep. Jay Fant, R-Jacksonville, one of four candidates, has attacked the early frontrunn...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Rising up in defiance to Richard Spencer, hundreds of University of Florida students sounded off in a deafening chant."Go home, Spencer!" they shouted, as the exasperated white nationalist paced the stage, pleading to be heard.Were the students exerc...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Nationally, the word "evangelical" has become in recent years nearly synonymous with "conservative Republican" and Alabama is one of the most evangelical states in the country. But in Alabama, there is a difference: black Christians.While in many par...
Published: 12/13/17
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith on Wednesday to fill fellow Democrat Al Franken’s Senate seat until a special election in November, setting up his longtime and trusted adviser for a potentially bruising 2018...
Published: 12/13/17
Elections chief: Automatic recount unlikely in Alabama race

Elections chief: Automatic recount unlikely in Alabama race

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Still-uncounted ballots are unlikely to change the outcome of the U.S. Senate race in Alabama enough to spur an automatic recount, the state’s election chief said Wednesday as Democratic victor Doug Jones urged Republican Roy Moore...
Published: 12/13/17
Democrats jubilant, and newly confident about 2018, as Alabama delivers win on Trump’s turf

Democrats jubilant, and newly confident about 2018, as Alabama delivers win on Trump’s turf

The Democrats’ seismic victory Tuesday in the unlikely political battleground of Alabama brought jubilation — and a sudden a rush of confidence — to a party that has been struggling to gain its footing since Donald Trump won the presidency 13 months ...
Published: 12/13/17
Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans on Tuesday rushed toward a deal on a massive tax package that would reduce the top tax rate for wealthy Americans to 37 percent and slash the corporate rate to a level slightly higher than what businesses and co...
Published: 12/12/17