Thursday, Aug 21, 2014

'Highly effective' teachers in Hernando triple in annual evaluation


BROOKSVILLE - Hernando County school teachers are making gains in the classroom, evaluations released this week indicate.

Teacher evaluation scores increased nearly 32 percent compared to 2012.

The scores show 48.7 percent of instructional staff are "highly effective," which is 16.4 percent higher than the state average, and 49.3 percent are "effective."

According to the evaluations, only 1.6 percent of Hernando teachers "need improvement," and none were "unsatisfactory."

By comparison, last year 16.8 percent of Hernando teachers were evaluated as "highly effective," which was 5.8 percent below the state average, and 81.9 percent were evaluated as "effective," or 7.3 percent below the state average.

"Our principals observed high quality instruction going on in the classroom, and the teachers were able to reach their individual professional development goals," said Eric Williams director of school improvement.

The teacher evaluations scores are based on a combination of student performance, principal-reviews of teachers' instructional practice, and professional development plans and responsibilities, which districts statewide are allowed to develop.

Westside Elementary School and Chocachatti Elementary School had some of the highest percentage shifts this year from the "effective" to "highly effective" category, both at a nearly 84 percent change, the evaluations show.

According to the Student Success Act of 2010, at least 50 percent of a performance evaluation must be based on data and indicators of student learning growth assessed annually, and measured by statewide assessments, including FCAT.

District-wide FCAT scores improved last year between 1 percent and 11 percent, depending on grade.

For teachers on a performance pay scale, an improved evaluation could mean a pay raise next year.

Details of the performance pay system for teachers still have to be worked out at the district level.

"It will affect pay if we were to go to performance pay salary," said Laurie Pellito, human resources coordinator for the district. "Some will be going on next year - we haven't finished that yet - but that will determine higher pay for those teachers who received 'highly effective' scores."

Not many other districts had the near perfect split between "highly effective" and "effective" teaching staff, Pellito said.

"It was up to each district to create their own system, and hopefully in the future the state will come up with some type of template, so it's even for everyone," she said.

Staring next year, districts wont have as much control over the evaluation of teachers.

The Student Success Act, passed in 2010, gives the state a greater say in the assessment of teachers.

New legislation also requires all districts fully implement revised salary schedules in the 2014-15 school year.

"Florida statute always had language in it that we had to primarily base evaluations on student performance, but there wasn't any meat to it, and no district did that," Pellito said. "The Student Success Act really changed this evaluation system."

According to state statute, those revised salary schedules are based upon a combination of student performance and professional practices, and have comparable performance evaluation standards across the state.

The bill has significantly changed the relationship between district-level administrators, school-based administrators, and teachers in the classroom, according to a 2013 legislative platform issued by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.

"The cumulative impact of the statutory and regulatory demands on school districts has resulted in an inability of superintendents to operate and administer school districts in an efficient, business-like manner," the report states, noting the "inflexibility" of the Student Success Act. "Decision-making must return to the local level. Currently, local control and flexibility has eroded to the point that school districts may not even establish their own school calendar."

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