Local News

Teacher evaluations vary widely across the state

SEBRING - Teacher evaluations released Tuesday by the Florida Department of Education showed wide variations among districts across the state, but with the Highlands County's numbers close to the state average.

Teacher evaluations are based on student gains according to test data and classroom observations/evaluations. Teachers receive one of the following ratings: highly effective, effective, needs improvement, three years developing or unsatisfactory.

School Board of Highlands County Human Resources Director Vivianne Waldron said the Highlands School District is somewhere in the middle, but with a higher percentage of "highly effective" teachers.

The evaluations for the 2012-13 school year show Highlands with 34.0 percent of its classroom teachers rated "highly effective," with 32.3 percent "highly effective" statewide.

In the "effective" category Highlands had 61.7 percent with the statewide average at 65.6 percent.

Waldron noted some of the wide variations statewide in the performance results.

"You have one district, DeSoto, with a new superintendent and 17.5 percent of their teachers are "developing," she said. Highlands had 2.6 percent "developing" while statewide it was only .2 percent.

DeSoto also had a very large percentage (44 percent) of its teachers rated "needs improvement," while in Highlands it was 1.8 percent and statewide 1.4 percent received a "needs improvement" rating.

Highlands has a little shift toward "highly effective," but not as much as many other districts such as 76 percent of the teachers rated "highly effective" in Flagler County, Waldron noted with astonishment.

"Leon County, that's Tallahassee, is 89 percent 'highly effective,'" she said. "That is amazing isn't it."

Scanning through the state data yields more "amazing" or improbable numbers such as a few schools with 100 percent "highly effective" teachers, such as Polk Avenue Elementary School in Polk County, Osceola Creek Middle School in Palm Beach County and Shadowlawn Elementary School in Clay County.

Waldron noted that Highlands County started out with a higher percentage of "highly effective," rated teachers, which was a bit "overinflated." But additional training sessions for the evaluators helped to level out the ratings.

She noted that Lake Placid High improved from a "C" to a "B" accountability grade. Also, the students' test scores led to a high score for teachers in the 50 percent of the evaluation that is based on student gains.

So it would make sense that 80.4 percent of Lake Placid High's teachers are rated "highly effective," because they are working hard, Waldron said.

But that correlation is not evident at Woodlawn Elementary with 50 percent "highly effective" teachers, she said. Based on the data, they should not have had that high of a percentage of "highly effective" teachers.

Waldron said the evaluation results will be used for several purposes including: "performance pay," based on the "highly effective" or "effective" ratings; developing school improvement plans and determining appropriate teacher training.

Statewide, the evaluations have not been completed or submitted to the FDOE for 13.7 percent of classroom teachers. Those numbers will be added when the report is updated in January or when it's finalized in March.