Thursday, May 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Pinellas finds better way to evaluate teachers

After two years of disastrous and discredited results from Tallahassee's top-down plan for evaluating public school teachers, a small experiment at five Pinellas County schools is offering some hope there could be a better way to identify bad teachers and help the average ones improve. The state Department of Education has taken notice of Pinellas Superintendent Mike Grego's effort to create an evaluation system that offers real-time feedback for teachers about their performance. That holds far more promise than the state's status quo.

Common sense says teacher performance cannot be easily boiled down to a number. But that is what the Legislature sought to do in 2012 when it created the "value-added model" evaluation system that tried to measure exactly what impact a teacher had on students' learning. The results were to inform a new teacher merit pay system starting this year. The scheme, however, never really had a chance. As critics warned Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature two years ago, the state lacked the tools — namely tests — that could accurately measure just how much a student learned in each class each year. So the Department of Education winged it, ordering districts to substitute overall FCAT scores for some teachers' evaluations even if those teachers taught grades or classes that did not relate to FCAT.

When the first round of results were finally released in 2013 — months after a new school year had already started — they were largely useless and quickly criticized. Just a handful of teachers across the entire Tampa Bay region scored poorly. Some excellent teachers, including past recipients of teacher of the year awards, racked up average results. The same thing happened in March when the 2012-13 scores were released, fueling calls for Florida to revamp its entire accountability system.

So far, lawmakers don't appear inclined to respond. But for the past several months at five Pinellas schools, Grego and his team, with the state education department's blessing, have been trying out a new approach that focuses on working more directly with teachers throughout the year to improve teaching methods and classroom management skills. At the start of the school year, teachers underwent classroom observations and students took pre-tests. Teachers also completed self-assessments, and students in grades four and up were surveyed about their teachers' practices. The extra measures do not count toward a teacher's rating, but they did inform individual strategies for helping the teacher improve. Another round of tests, observation and surveys will be done this spring.

That sounds like a far fairer and more workable model for improving teacher performance and evaluating it accurately. Hopefully, Pinellas is on to something, not just for creating a better evaluation system but also for improving teacher performance and raising student achievement in the classroom.

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Updated: 05/24/18

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Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

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Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

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Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

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Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
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