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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Florida Legislature tries to make it teachers versus parents

From Scathing Purple Musings

by Bob Sykes

In posting on news that New York City would be posting the controversial decision to make the city’s teacher’s value-added evaluation public, Gradebook’s Jeff Solochek explained that the same is on the way for Florida. Only legislators are doing so in a particularly stealth way by embedding details within parent trigger legislation. Solochek explains:

Florida’s public records law already makes its teacher evaluations open for viewing a year after they’re filed. SB 736 required the state to create an annual list of teachers by their new evaluation ratings (highly effective through needs improvement), while also mandating that schools inform parents if their children are in classrooms with teachers needing improvement.

The parent trigger bill now coursing through the Legislature would amp up these requirements, going so far as to bar schools from placing children in a classroom with a teacher needing improvement two years running.

The parent trigger legislation, titled Parent Empowerment in Education (HB 1191), makes it to the House floor tomorrow. Opposition to the bill has been focused on the school takeover provisions which has shown to be easily manipulated by charter school operatives. The authors of the bill probably didn’t even want to admit that the other half of the bill was about making teacher evaluations public. In a story yesterday from Miami Herald reporter Kathleen McGrory, she reminded us that Jeb Bush’s public support for parent trigger made no mention of making teacher evaluations public. Predictably, Bush would not be interviewed for the story.

Still, there’s amazement in the details. From one of HB 1191′s official analyses:

The bill creates new requirements for school districts and charter schools regarding the assignment of students to classroom teachers. The bill prohibits consecutive student assignments to teachers with an annual performance evaluation rating of unsatisfactory or needs improvement; authorizes a parent to request the performance evaluation of any classroom teacher assigned to his or her child; and requires that parents of students assigned to an out-of-field or chronically low-performing teacher be informed of the availability of virtual instruction delivered by an in-field, high-performing teacher.

Florida law does not prohibit school districts and charter schools from assigning a student in consecutive years to a low-performing teacher. School districts must notify each parent when his or her child is assigned to an out-of-field teacher or chronically low performing teacher; however, notification that virtual instruction is available as an alternative to such teacher assignments is not required. School districts and charter schools are not expressly required to provide a teacher’s performance evaluation to parents who request it; however, such evaluations become public records after one year, at which time the evaluation must be furnished to any parent or member of the public who requests it.

The bill does not have a fiscal impact on state or local governments.

The bill takes effect on July 1, 2012.

Clearly the authors of the bill took note of JD Alexander’s desperate haste to have USF Polytech made an independent institution when they established this timeline. The ink on SB 736 isn’t dry yet, but legislators and Bush want to use it in such a controversial and potentially reckless manner. And now; and even though SB736 won’t go into effect until 2014. Even one of Bush’s major financial backers, Bill Gates, thinks making teacher evaluations public is a bad idea.

The authors, sponsors and whomever wrote this analysis lose credibility in insisting, “the bill does not have a fiscal impact on state or local governments.” Really? Just communicating such massive amounts of information to parents will be costly. It will require additional personnel and administrative oversight. Nevermind what the DOE will have to add.

Can anyone say, “unfunded mandates?”

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