Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Start over on teacher accountability

Floridians already can't trust the state's public school grading system after years of arbitrary changes by the Legislature that produced meaningless results. Now it's clear they can't believe the teacher evaluation scheme either for its absurdly optimistic assessment of Florida's teachers. What Republican lawmakers promised two years ago would be the final chapter in building a public education accountability system is actually more akin to a Garrison Keillor monologue: Florida, where (nearly) all teachers are above average.

That's particularly true in Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties. As the Tampa Bay Times reported Wednesday, preliminary state results show that in 2012-13, those three school districts didn't have a single bad teacher. Not one. Nor, apparently, was there a single rotten administrator. Hillsborough County's results were only slightly more believable. There, about one out of every 100 teachers was deemed "unsatisfactory." Statewide, there was just one bad apple out of every 535 teachers. Nobody's hiring record is that good.

The teacher ratings don't come close to reflecting reality. Consider Lacoochee Elementary in northeast Pasco, where 100 percent of the evaluated faculty were deemed "effective" or "highly effective." Yet in April, superintendent Kurt Browning ordered all teachers and administrators there to reapply to keep their jobs after three consecutive D grades at the school.

From the outset, school districts and education advocates warned that the teacher evaluation system lawmakers pushed through and Gov. Rick Scott signed into law was highly flawed. Districts warned they would have too little time or money to do it properly. The results were shortcuts — such as basing a teacher's rating on the standardized test scores of students she may never have taught — that were almost comical. Statewide, only 3.5 percent of teachers were not ranked as "highly effective" or "effective" in 2011-12.

Not that the 2012-13 results released Tuesday are any more credible after a few tweaks to the formula. Last school year just 2.1 percent of teachers statewide were deemed "needs improvement," "developing" or "unsatisfactory." Everyone else was "effective" or "highly effective."

The goal of Florida's accountability push has been to make it easy for parents and the public to realistically assess how their local school is doing. But Tallahassee's continued proclivity to rush school accountability efforts for political gain versus smart investment and nuanced policy has resulted in worthless measurements that are too often unfair, unreliable and unbelievable. The latest teacher evaluation scores are more evidence of the disconnect. In all of Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties there must be one teacher who is performing poorly.

Accountability is good, but this system holds virtually no one accountable. Florida should scrap it and start over.

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Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18