Monday, December 18, 2017
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: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

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Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

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Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

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Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

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Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

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Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17