Broward County Public Schools improved from a ‘C’ to a ‘B’ grade for 2013-14.student achievement. Based on district wide gains in reading and math FCAT scores, students, teachers and schools should be proud. Oddly enough, there is widespread astonishment that student scores went up, and teacher evaluations went down–way down.
One half of a teacher’s evaluation was based on student achievement gains and the rest was based on instructional practice. Districts design the instructional practice component. In Broward, it appears that formal and informal classroom observations are used. There is a web site that has links to each district’s process. They are not the same. Yet, the legislature wants merit pay for the highest performing teachers.
Jane Koszoruc from the Broward County LWV relates the results. It has me scratching my head!
Recognizing the potential inequities of relying too heavily on standardized tests scores to rate teacher effectiveness, the 2015 Florida legislature revised (again) the teacher evaluation and performance pay formula for Florida’s teachers. The legislation shifted more weight to district conducted teacher classroom performance observations, reducing the reliance on VAM scores (Value-Added Modeling – a complex formula to predict expected student learning gains) from the current 50% to 33%.
But this is little comfort to Broward teachers who may be wondering how, for the last reported school year (2013-14), they ended up 61st out of 67 counties in the percentage of teachers identified as Highly Effective – even as the district earned a “B” grade for overall student achievement. While the Florida Department of Education reported that 41.9% of all Florida teachers were recognized as Highly Effective (1/26/2015), only 5.1% of Broward teachers warranted the highest rating – and therefore the additional “Merit” pay that accompanies it.
The second largest district in Florida and sixth largest in the nation, Broward boasts 1,652 National Board Certified Teachers, National Teacher Hall of Fame members, State Teachers of the Year, and Milken award winners, and yet only 5.1% of its teachers are regarded as Highly Effective.
Broward compared miserably to the seven largest school districts in Florida, ranking dead last. In neighboring Dade and Palm Beach Counties 39.1% and 43.6% of their instructors earned a Highly Effective rating. And where 81.2% of Orange County teachers were identified as Highly Effective, a 70.2% gain from 2013 to 2014, Broward dropped by 4.8%. Only six out of 67 Florida districts reported a smaller percentage of Highly Effective teachers than Broward.
While VAM scores are reported yearly, classroom performance scores are quarantined for a year before release. Until both the VAM and performance scores are available, it is difficult to determine if the low number of Highly Effective teachers identified in Broward County for 2014 was a result of lower-than-expected VAM scores, of low district level classroom performance scores, or a combination of both.
A comment from Broward’s former Director of Performance Evaluations and the Teacher Incentive Fund may shed some light.
“Of 16,685 Broward teachers evaluated … only 5.1 percent of teachers, or 715, were rated as ‘highly effective’ by Broward, down by half from last year. Gracie Diaz, director of performance evaluations and the Teacher Incentive Fund, said other districts are not adhering to their evaluation systems because they find the state criteria unfair. ‘We’ve stayed true to our system,’ said Diaz, adding that the district has formed a task force with its union to improve the evaluation process.” (The Sun-Sentinel, 12/3/14)
Interestingly, Gracie Diaz has since left Broward County public schools and is currently the EXCEED Grant Director in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Florida Atlantic University.
The district and union have agreed to some scoring changes for 2015, but Broward teachers might still wonder if the small percentage of Highly Effective teachers could be, at least in part, the result of hyper-critical classroom evaluations, especially when compared to other districts.
At the very least, the low number of Highly Effective teachers in Broward County suggests that factors other than standardized test scores and VAM may negatively affect a teacher’s rating.