Teacher evaluations under radical change

Florida teachers used to be evaluated based on their respective school’s FCAT scores. This determined the effectiveness of both the school and individual teachers, regardless of which teachers taught students who actually took the FCAT.
“Teachers who taught twelfth grade curriculum were evaluated as effective or not effective based off of how freshmen and sophomores did on the FCAT,” AP Statistics teacher Lauren DiNapoli said. “The system wasn’t reflective of teachers who didn’t teach FCAT benchmarks.”
Now a new evaluation system is taking shape, handed down from the state and interpreted by the districts; one which encourages more specific evaluations of individual school subjects through End-of-Course testing. In this evaluation system, every course offered will have its own EOC exam, which, when graded, will be compared to the results of the same course in other schools around the state. How the teacher compares to all the teachers who teach his or her subject will determine his or her effectiveness in the classroom. If a teacher cannot improve their effectiveness in three years, they could potentially have their teaching certificate revoked.
“The new evaluation system is connected with the emphasis put on the new Common Core standards so that a student’s grades in Florida are as valid as in any other state,” principal Mary Williams said. Williams also said that the new system encourages merit-based pay, meaning that a teacher who is evaluated as “very effective” for their subject would be paid more than a teacher who is evaluated as “effective” for the same subject area.
However, many classes currently do not have EOCs for the subject taught, making it impossible for those teachers to be evaluated on the same scale. Because of this, teachers this school year who were not handed down EOCs from the state were required to come up with their own final exam to serve as a transition into next year, where every class will theoretically have an EOC. Instead of being compared statewide, however, non-EOC exams will be compared throughout the school’s respective district.
“The final exam requirement made me nervous because my final exam now evaluates both me and my students,” first-year teacher Justin Roberts said. “These new rules are demanding on teachers.”
Advanced placement classes will be evaluated differently as well. This year, AP teachers will create their own final exams for evaluation. Next year, however, AP teachers will be evaluated based on how their students perform on the Advanced Placement test at the end of the year. Though the AP tests will affect teachers, students will continue to have no negative consequences, other than not receiving college credit, by failing to pass their exam.
“It’s frustrating because as a teacher you want your students to do well, but the students should have some accountability,” DiNapoli said. “AP teachers are going to have to start weeding out kids from their class that don’t have a good chance of passing the exam.”
One of the biggest issues with the new evaluation system is how to evaluate school employees who are considered teachers but do not have a regular classroom setting. Currently, the method of their evaluation, and consequently their pay, is set by the Florida Department of Education as “to be announced.”
“Though I’m not a traditional teacher, I collaborate and work with teachers; I view the school as my classroom,” media center director Po Dickenson said. “I agree that the previous evaluation system needed an update, but when a system comes down that doesn’t reflect every teacher’s worth, it makes you feel like everything you’ve done is not enough.”
Though this year is a transitional period between the former FCAT evaluations and the future EOC evaluations, the exact dynamics and methods of next year’s teacher evaluations and merit-based pay are still obscure.
“As a district, we work hard to educate our kids with dedicated and loyal employees,” Williams said. “I hope the new evaluation system becomes clearer before next year, because there does seem to be a lot of confusion. We accept that things change continuously with education standards, but it seems no one knows where the new evaluation system is going from here.”