Saturday, June 23, 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: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Itís hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bayís two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. Thatís the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18