Florida Struggling to Improve Its Teacher Evaluations

December 2, 2013

When Miami-Dade’s 2012 elementary science teacher of the year finally got her annual evaluation last May, she was confused.

Despite the top honor from her peers for her work with Howard Drive Elementary fifth graders, the official record ranked Julie Rich as barely effective due to her students’ poor test results — in reading.

“It makes no sense,” said Rich. “I’m just trying to get a fair evaluation. I felt really offended by this because I’m not even being judged by the subject I teach.”

Nor are thousands of other Florida teachers.

As the Department of Education prepares to release another batch of evaluation results Monday under the state’s new job review process, local school boards and state officials are still struggling to improve a system that judges as many as two-thirds of the state’s teachers on the test scores of students they’ve never met or on subjects they don’t teach.

A solution to the problem lies in the development of hundreds of new exams, which state officials say should be ready by next school year. But skeptics say creating and issuing the assessments could cost billions. And doubts remain about whether Florida’s 67 school districts have the time or money to make the system work by 2014, when pay and job security are tied to evaluations.

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