Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Backlash Intensifies

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Backlash Intensifies

Article excerpt

TEACHER RATINGS: Critics assail new state system's accuracy and fairness

Only two teachers out of almost 5,000 Sarasota and Manatee teachers were rated "unsatisfactory" under Florida's new teacher evaluation system.

But that has not silenced critics of the system who warn that linking teacher evaluations -- and eventually their pay and job status -- to student test scores unfairly penalizes teachers.

One day after the state's release of teacher evaluation data, the backlash against the new system has only grown in intensity.

Leaders of the Florida Education Association dubbed the release of the evaluations "another blow to our hard-working teachers," and are calling on state lawmakers to scrap the system.

Leaders of local teacher unions say the system is unfair and does nothing to improve learning.

"This was never done for students; this was a political thing," said Barry Dubin, executive director of the Sarasota Classified/ Teachers Association.

State officials released a revised report on teacher evaluations Wednesday after correcting glitches in the data released Wednesday. The results hardly changed, and state officials plan to press ahead with the new system.

"Any time you implement something this large for the first time there are growing pains," Interim Education Commissioner Pam Stewart told the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee on Thursday.

Under the system, almost half of a teacher's evaluation is now based on how well students perform on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

The stakes are high for teachers. By the 2014-15 school year, the evaluations will be used in to award pay raises and decide what teachers keep their jobs.

Under the 2011 Student Success Act, teachers who get the lowest "unsatisfactory" ranking for two consecutive years or who do not exceed a "needs improvement" rating in three years can be fired.

Critics say test scores are a poor measure of teacher performance.

They also say the evaluations are unfair since the student- performance portion requires at least two years of FCAT data. …

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