Sunday, June 24, 2018
Editorials

Evaluations earn failing grade

It was obvious to Florida public school teachers six weeks ago that the state's new system for evaluating them uses imperfect data that makes the evaluations of dubious value. Now a statewide snapshot of results should make that clear to everyone else. The state Board of Education and legislative leaders need to fix the evaluation system that is the foundation for moving to merit-based teacher pay or risk losing more credibility for their entire effort to hold public schools accountable.

If it could be trusted, it would have been good news this week when the Department of Education reported that 96.5 percent of all Florida educators are rated effective or highly effective in their job. But a flawed measurement scheme compounded by different implementation in each of the state's 67 counties makes it unreliable. How else to account for such disparate results in Tampa Bay when it comes to rating teachers highly effective, effective, needs improvement or unsatisfactory? For example, in Hillsborough County, 41.5 percent of teachers are deemed "highly effective" compared to just 3.6 percent in Pasco County.

On Thursday in Tallahassee, interim state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart downplayed discrepancies over the results, saying, "I think any time you implement something this large for the first time, there are growing pains." Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Nice-ville, has talked dismissively of teachers who realized six weeks ago, when they received their individual ratings privately, how flawed the results were.

But the results bear out what critics warned would happen ever since the Legislature, at Gov. Rick Scott's behest, rushed passage of SB 736 in 2011. For all the merit in trying to assess which teachers are the most effective so they could be paid more starting in 2014-15, lawmakers have not given school districts the time or resources needed to build fair assessment tools.

The law anticipated using student performance on end-of-course subject exams to inform 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation. Such exams don't yet exist for the vast majority of classes students take. But rather than delay implementation until such measurement tools could be designed, the Legislature said school districts could substitute results from the FCAT, even for the teachers — be it art, Spanish or kindergarten — whose classes are never part of FCAT testing.

Pinellas Superintendent Mike Grego, who was just a month into his job when teacher evaluations were distributed in late October, has already acknowledged the district will need to tweak its system. Others around the state say the same. But they can only do so much until Tallahassee owns up to its own role and provides the resources and time to get it right.

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Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

It’s hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bay’s 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. That’s 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 general’s misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect — 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 Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s 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