Collier County Public Schools officials proposed a student growth model and teacher rating system Wednesday night that, if approved, could be implemented this year to evaluate teachers as required by a new state law.
The district presented the proposal to the teacher’s union during Wednesday’s contract negotiations session. The proposal used fourth and fifth grade reading and math teachers as examples.
Even though the state hasn’t finalized all of the guidelines yet, local school districts are mandated to have systems in place this year.
“In the meantime, you still must be judged,” said Cal Boggess, president of the Collier County Education Association.
The teacher evaluation system, part of Senate Bill 736, will not affect a teacher’s performance pay this year, but their final rating could affect their eligibility to move up the pay scale. Starting in January, informal and formal observations will count toward a teacher’s performance rating, but before then the district is calling the observations “trial runs.”
In March, the Florida Legislature passed the controversial merit pay bill — dubbed the “Student Success Act” — which was the first new law signed and enacted by Gov. Rick Scott.
Boggess and the union are concerned that teachers who teach subjects other than standard courses like math and English will be unfairly judged using student Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores.
The proposed model uses FCAT scores to determine a student’s growth. A student’s growth is one variable that affects a teacher’s performance rating.
But the district doesn’t have much choice when it comes to adjusting the evaluation model.
The state mandates that the districts must use class observations and the state-mandated student growth model to determine each teacher’s score.
“We broke it up so that each teacher is looked at on their different level — elementary, middle or high school,” said Debbie Terry, executive director of human resources for the district. “At least this way the scores are relative.”
The district proposed two rating scales for the teachers to choose from.
The first makes it more difficult to receive a highly effective rating but also more difficult to receive an unsatisfactory rating. The second scale makes it easier to receive a highly effective rating but also easier to receive an unsatisfactory rating.
The ratings range from highly effective, effective, needs improvement to unsatisfactory. By 2014, the state mandates these ratings be linked to performance pay.
Some factors in the student growth model include a student’s attendance, the student’s past three FCAT scores to determine student gains, and if English is a student’s second language.
Teachers expressed concern that variables such as the number of students qualifying for free and reduced lunches, class sizes and behavioral problems are not taken into account in the model.
“Some of this is outside our control. The state mandates it,” said Boggess. “But things like the value for non-FCAT teachers can change. It gives us some options.”
Other teachers also worried that high-performing students would not show any gains on FCAT scores and therefore would negatively affect a teacher’s rating. The district said the model accounts for students who are already achieving in the highest percentile on the FCAT.
“Even if a student has zero gain because he’s scoring at the highest level, the model will show that a student achieved above average and this will help the teacher get a better score,” said Cheng Ang, director of assessments and data management with the district. Ang developed and is currently testing the model.
The union will counter the district’s teacher evaluation rating scale and student growth model during a meeting next week. The district and the union will also continue discussions on salary proposals.