The Florida Department of Education says the Manatee County School District is among the worst in the state at evaluating its teachers, but Manatee officials strongly disagree.
According to the DOE, Manatee is among 11 districts in the state with 25 percent or more of its teachers not receiving an annual evaluation in 2015-16. The state also reported that only seven districts were worse than Manatee last year at completing evaluations.
Teacher evaluations make teachers eligible for state bonuses and are used as a metric in determining raises. They are touted as a tool to help teachers continue to develop their craft.
According to DOE spokeswoman Cheryl Etters, the state reached out to school officials in December because the district had not reported 30 percent of classroom teacher evaluations for the previous school year. Manatee school officials dispute the DOE’s numbers, saying they are based on flawed data and are incorrect.
They say we are at thirty percent, and that's really not a true depiction of what we've done for our instructional personell in the district.
- Ryan Saxe, the district’s executive director of curriculum and professional learning.
“They say we are at 30 percent, and that's really not a true depiction of what we’ve done for our instructional personnel in the district,” said Ryan Saxe, the district’s executive director of curriculum and professional learning. “We know there has not been the most accurate reporting of our data that we could do. Now that we recognize that is a problem, we know that is what we need to fix.”
Saxe said the state has told the district it is missing evaluations on roughly 1,000 teachers. He said that number is actually just 77.
According to Saxe, the DOE counted several employees as teachers who should not be classified, and the district did not report evaluations on teachers who had left the district, even if they had received an evaluation.
“This is an issue where we are working on the state to determine exactly what the numbers are in terms of teacher evaluations,” district spokesman Mike Barber said. “It involves a lot of different details. Some of the numbers are related to teachers who retired and therefore their evaluations weren't completed, others were charter school teachers factored into this as well.”
What if you are not evaluated?
Teachers who do not receive an evaluation could not apply for the Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program, which will award bonuses of $6,816 to teachers rated highly effective who scored in the top percentile on their college entrance exams.
Teacher evaluations from 2015-16 are also likely be linked to pay-step increases. In the tentative agreement between the union and district, teachers who did not receive evaluations will receive the same pay-step increase as teachers who received a “highly-effective” rating, the top rating a teacher can receive.
“You can’t penalize somebody for not being evaluated,” MEA President Pat Barber said.
You can’t penalize somebody for not being evaluated.
- Manatee Education Association president Pat Barber
The district and the Manatee Education Association are at impasse in contract negotiations, so pay raises are yet to be determined. The district is proposing for teachers who were rated highly effective in 2015-16 to receive roughly $900 raises, and for teachers rated effective to receive $600 raises. The Manatee Education Association is asking for $1,200 for highly effective teachers and $900 for effective teachers, said district negotiator Bill Vogel.
“It’s a concern because all teachers should be evaluated,” Vogel said. “And certainly, when it comes to the amount of salary increase they are eligible for, it is an important factor.”
This is not the first time Manatee teachers have gone under-evaluated, according to the DOE.
According to the DOE’s 2014-15 school year report, more than 35 percent of Manatee teachers did not receive an evaluation. Only seven other districts in the state had higher rates of teachers not being evaluated. There was no link to evaluations and pay raises that year, but teachers without evaluations were ineligible for bonuses from Best and Brightest.
Etters said the DOE notified 11 other districts that had not reported evaluations for 25 percent or more of its teachers. The districts that received notification are Bradford, Desoto, Gadsden, Hendry, Jefferson, Madison, Polk, St. Lucie, Florida School for the Deaf and Blind and the FAU Lab School.
The DOE releases its annual statistics on the previous school year’s teacher evaluations each February.
By the numbers:
Teachers in Manatee who didn’t receive 2015-16 evaluations, according to the DOE: More than 1,000
Teachers in Manatee who didn’t receive 2015-16 evaluations, according to Manatee County: 77
Number of the state’s 67 districts that received notification from the DOE for missing too many evaluations: 12
Percentage of Manatee teachers who did not receive evaluations in 2014-15, according to the DOE: 35 percent