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Florida Teachers Sue State Over Evaluation System Citing it’s Unfair

Teachers Sue Florida

Florida teachers have filed a lawsuit in Federal court over teacher rating evaluations based on student test scores.

The current system was adopted in 2011 and says teachers can be evaluated based on the performance of students they don't even teach, or at times, subjects they don't teach either.

Seven Florida teachers, with backing by the National Education Association and Florida Education Association, are suing the state Education Commissioner Tony Bennett and the state Board of Education for deploying something they consider to be an 'unfair evaluation system.'

“The state approved formula for measuring student growth on [the state standardized tests] is being stretched far beyond the limited purposes for which it was designed,” the suit argues.

"It's a huge flaw in the law," said Karen McCann, president of the Alachua County Education Association.

FEA lawyer Ron Meyer says some teachers' rights are being violated since they're being assessed based on students who sometimes aren't even in their classrooms. "The system is flawed and collapsing. And the victims here are the children and the teachers who are teaching these students and trying to do the best jobs they can," he said in a statement.

The suit says this evaluation method violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"This lawsuit highlights the absurdity of the evaluation system that has come about as a result of SB 736,” said FEA President Andy Ford. “Teachers in Florida are being evaluated using a formula designed to measure learning gains in the FCAT math and reading tests. But most teachers, including the seven in this lawsuit, don’t teach those subjects in the grades the test is administered. One of the teachers bringing this suit is getting evaluated on the test scores of students who aren't even in her school.”

In 2011, Florida lawmakers passed a measure overhauling teacher evaluations. The law requires all teachers to be judged in part on the progress of their students. Senate Bill 736, as it's called, makes student math and reading test scores 40% to 50% of a teacher's evaluation. This growth formula was developed for teachers in those subjects in which the state administers standardized tests: grades 4-8 in math and 4-10 in reading.

As of July 1, 2014, teachers’ salaries will be based on the evaluations.

Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett noted in a statement that current bills before the Legislature "would make improvements to the Student Success Act, including ensuring that teachers are evaluated only on the students and subjects they teach."

"The legislation would also provide that teachers could not be eligible for a performance pay system until an appropriate assessment for their students and subjects is in place," Bennett said. "We look forward to working with teachers, administrators and Florida families (on an) assessment that best rewards the success of our great teachers."

Florida Teachers Say Value-Added Model (VAM) Needs to Be Reevaluated

The use of VAM has caused a great deal of concern among teachers who say VAM is not useful in identifying competent teachers. On Tuesday November 20, gathered in Tallahassee to tell their stories and share the flaws in the system.

Florida Teachers File Federal Lawsuit Challenging Evaluations: Bethann Brooks

Bethann Brooks is a Health Science teacher. The FCAT does not directly relate to the course she instructs, but her evaluation was based on students she does not teach and based on subjects she does not teach. Federal lawsuit challenges the evaluation of teachers based on the standardized test scores of students they do not teach or based on subjects they do not teach. The lawsuit is brought by seven accomplished teachers in Alachua, Escambia and Hernando counties.

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