More than half of Manatee schools teachers are rated 'highly effective'

eearl@bradenton.comDecember 4, 2013 

MANATEE -- More than half of Manatee County public school teachers were rated as "highly effective" during the past year, according to data released Tuesday by the Florida Department of Education.

The evaluations are based on student performance, student test scores and principal evaluations from November 2012 through Nov. 25 this year.

Teachers earn a rating of either "highly effective," "effective," "needs improvement," "developing" or "unsatisfactory."

Of the 3,153 teachers in Manatee County schools, none were rated as unsatisfactory this year.

According to the state:

• 51.3 percent of the teach

ers in Manatee county scored highly effective.

• 44.1 percent of teachers scored effective.

• 2.2 percent of teachers need improvement.

• 2.4 percent of teachers were scored as developing. (The developing rating is for teachers who have been on the job less than three years.)

• 18.2 percent of teachers did not receive an evaluation.

While Manatee Education Association president Pat Barber said the scores are not usually used as hiring criteria, they can be a basis for performance pay.

The parts that make up a score include student performance, student growth based on test scores, and classroom evaluations done throughout the year by principals.

The growth of a teacher's student is recorded over a three-year time span. The idea is to not evaluate teachers based on a single year of student performance, or proficiency or growth from just one year.

Since the final results for the 2011-12 teacher evaluations, the Manatee County School District has shown improvement.

Last year, a little more than 39 percent of Manatee County's 2,961 teachers scored highly effective. A little more than 42 percent scored effective. Only 20 teachers in the school district scored as needing improvement. Only one teacher scored unsatisfactory.

This year, McNeal Elementary, an A school, had the highest percentage of highly effective teachers in Manatee County, with 95.8 percent earning the highest rating. Orange Ridge Bullock Elementary, an F school, came in close behind, with 94.3 percent of teachers scoring highly effective.

Deputy Superintendent Diana Greene has said there are no direct ties between school grades and teacher evaluations.

"If a school grade is a B, that does not mean all student needs have been met, and it does not mean teachers have percent scores," Greene said earlier this week. "I can still have a low score if the school performed on a high level. It is based on each individual student."

Florida Department of Education chief of staff Kathy Hebda said Tuesday that not all districts have reported their complete evaluations for this year in all categories.

When they do, Hebda said the percentages will change.

"For districts with a small percentage that did not get evaluated, it could be because teachers are on extended leave," Hebda said. "They also may have received evaluations but have questions on their evaluations."

Hebda said that while teacher evaluations are a state mandate, they are not uniform. Each district negotiates teacher evaluations.

"Districts work throughout the year making personnel decisions. Those are done locally," Hebda said. "It is really the purview of the school district to manage personnel."

Hebda said the basic premise of evaluations are performance, practice and the fulfillment of responsibilities.

At least 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation should be based on performance, Hebda said, although that can be lowered if districts have a lack of data over the past three years.

Student performance is calculated by reviewing their FCAT results. Other assessments include the Algebra I exam for eighth- and ninth-graders.

Districts can decide what other assessments to use in student performance assessment, although all must consider the FCAT.

Manatee County uses just the FCAT, Barber said.

The state is in the process of developing rules for a more uniform teacher evaluation system statewide.

"There are legal challenges to the process, but we are working on it," Hebda said. "But there will still be local flexibility in the evaluations."

Hebda said if parents have any questions or concerns about their district's teacher evaluations, they should contact the school district or the principal of the school directly.

"This data is a way for districts to know how other districts across the state have rated personnel in each category," Hebda said. "It is a statewide perspective."

Both the Manatee and Sarasota County school districts showed a mix of effective and highly effective teachers. In Sarasota, 50.5 percent of teachers scored highly effective and 47.6 percent of teachers scored effective.

Statewide, 32.3 percent of teachers were rated highly effective, 65.6 percent were rated effective, 1.4 percent were rated as needing improvement and 0.2 percent were rated unsatisfactory.

Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081

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