Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Schools Focused on Teacher Pay Program; Duval Officials Must Devise a Universal Evaluation Method Compatible with the State Plan

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Schools Focused on Teacher Pay Program; Duval Officials Must Devise a Universal Evaluation Method Compatible with the State Plan

Article excerpt

Byline: TIA MITCHELL

The Duval County School Board is hoping to soon finalize a controversial, state-mandated performance pay system for teachers and other school leaders.

The plan for implementing the Special Teachers Are Rewarded program, known as STAR, is due to the state Department of Education at the end of this month.

The pay system would rank teachers on the basis of student testing. Those that rank among the top 25 percent of their peers will receive bonuses equal to 5 percent of their annual salaries. The existing bonus system does not automatically include all teachers and uses other criteria.

Duval County expects to receive $7 million from the state to divvy out in bonuses. Last year, the county paid approximately $2 million in teacher bonuses.

Local officials are striving to devise an equitable method of evaluating all school-based personnel under the new state plan. For example, local school systems have had to come up with a way to evaluate teachers of subjects or in grade levels not covered by the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

The STAR plan requires counties to assess the performance of all bonus-eligible employees, including art, JROTC and physical education instructors, as well as kindergarten teachers, guidance counselors and media specialists.

Duval County plans to use existing end-of-course exams and also utilize tests that are now available through a statewide information-sharing pool.

Terrie Brady, president of Duval Teachers United, said she doesn't like the program because of it relies solely on testing.

"One test does not denote whether a teacher is a good instructor or is a bad instructor," she said.

She also said there will be many good teachers who don't land in the top 25 percent and won't get bonuses.

She said Duval County's existing merit pay program is better model.

"We don't disagree with having a performance-based plan, but allow districts to write it and allow the opportunity for everyone to have an award," she said.

Board Chairwoman Vicki Drake expressed similar concerns. She said she wasn't sure if the tests being designed for non-FCAT subjects are a reliable way to measure teacher effectiveness.

"It's kind of iffy as to whether this is going to be fair to everyone concerned," she said.

Teachers will be separated into categories to ensure they are only compared to those doing the same job. The same method will be used for all bonus-eligible employees.

The STAR plan was created by the Legislature last spring and replaced the short-lived Effectiveness Compensation Plan implemented by the state Board of Education a few months prior. Teachers around the state, as well as some local school boards, rallied against E-Comp, which called for rewarding the top 10 percent of the state's teachers based solely on student test scores. …

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