Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Challenge in School; State Report on Teachers Opens Dialogue on How Best to Rate Them

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Challenge in School; State Report on Teachers Opens Dialogue on How Best to Rate Them

Article excerpt

Byline: Khristopher J. Brooks & Topher Sanders

Now that Florida superintendents have data from the state's first-ever teacher evaluation report, local educators say they want to compare student achievement data with observations by principals.

According to the state report, re-released Thursday, 87 percent of teachers at Duval County's two F schools are effective or highly effective. At the D schools in Northeast Florida, 91 percent of teachers are highly effective or effective.

Educators for most Northeast Florida districts said observations by principals and vice principals are in sync with the academic performance of students. The questions are in Duval County, which accounts for the region's two F schools and all but one of Northeast Florida's D schools, which still boasted high percentages of effective teachers.

Duval County Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said although the state teacher data is inconsistent and unreliable, one benefit of having that report means districts can compare what student achievement data reflects and what principals determine as effective teaching.

"The conversation needs to move toward what highly effective instruction looks like in the classroom," Vitti said.

It's a conversation that's been taking place in St. Johns County for the past year. Specifically, making sure highly effective instruction looks the same to each of the district's administrators who conduct evaluations.

Brennan Asplen, St. Johns County's associate superintendent of human resources, said it's important for each evaluator to be looking for and rating the same things.

"What we want is for evaluators to go into a classroom and each come up with the same result no matter who's evaluating a teacher," Brennan said.

Asplen said St. Johns, the state's best performing district, spent all of last year training principals on "inter-rater reliability," the concept that two different raters can observe a teacher but arrive at the same conclusion of the teacher's performance.

In Duval County, Vitti said there's room for principals and assistant principals to get better at their classroom instruction observations.

"The model moving forward is identifying instructional leaders who have the experience and expertise to define what is good teaching and learning," Vitti said.

Those instructional leaders will help principals and assistant principals learn what to look for when observing teachers, the ultimate goal being able to "hone and refine their ability to recognize great teaching and learning and give good feedback to teachers," Vitti said.

Teacher evaluations differ slightly district to district, but in general, school systems use a scale of: highly effective, effective, needs improvement or unsatisfactory. A range of points are assigned to each rating and those points are totaled to determine a teacher's rating. The formulas are complex, but they take into account a teacher's classroom management, planning, professional development and pedagogy. …

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