Tuesday, January 23, 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: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Editorial: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Something is seriously amiss at Tampa Bay’s two CareerSource agencies, which receive millions in federal and state money to match unemployed workers with local employers. First, the agencies appear to be taking credit — and money — for job placements...
Published: 01/22/18

A Chicago Tribune editorial: Shut down this shutdown habit

"Shutting down the government of the United States of America should never ever be a bargaining chip for any issue. Period. It should be to governing as chemical warfare is to real warfare. It should be banned."— Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., addressing ...
Published: 01/22/18
Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Ignoring all available evidence that screen time and social media exposure can be harmful to kids, Facebook recently unveiled a new messaging app targeting children under 13. It’s yet another battlefront for parents who have to constantly combat the ...
Published: 01/21/18
Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18