South Florida teachers, returning to class this week, may catch a breath on massive changes to how they are graded and paid.
The rule for new teacher evaluations, including a complicated math formula created by consultants and state education administrators, has been tossed by an administrative judge in Tallahassee
Administrative Law Judge John Van Laningham found state administrators did not properly implement the controversial state law mandating performance pay and student score-driven evaluations for teachers. He called the teacher evaluation rule “invalid” and “flawed.”
The 57-page ruling did not address the substance of the law, but rather the rule-making procedure.
The law, known as the Student Success Act or SB 736, was passed in 2011 and still stands.
But how performance pay is carried out could go back to the drawing board.
The state Department of Education has 30 days to appeal or can restart the rule-making process to implement SB 736. Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson, who is resigning in a few weeks, said in an email Thursday that the order means the rule needs to be revised to meet technical requirements.
“While that revision process is underway, districts will continue to implement and improve upon the ground-breaking and collaborative evaluation systems they put in place last year based on Race to the Top and the Student Success Act. We will continue to work with educators and education stakeholders to finalize this procedural rule,” he said.
The Florida Education Association called the ruling a “victory for teachers.”
Ronald Meyer, an attorney for the FEA, said the decision can create a “fresh start.”
“Perhaps unlike the last time around, the State Board of Education and the commissioner of education will embrace the education stakeholders, the parents, the school boards, the superintendents and, yes, the FEA, and bring us to the table so we can help to craft something that doesn’t give you a value-added formula like this,” Meyer said Thursday.
He held up a copy of the complex mathematical equation that was supposed to calculate the value a teacher brought to the class.
“An evaluation system has to be fair and reliable, valid, and - we submit - understandable,” he said.
The performance pay part of the bill is set to take effect in 2014-15. Parallel changes on performance pay and teacher evaluations are already changing in Miami-Dade under the three-year federal Race to the Top program.
Andy Ford, FEA president, noted how the first time Florida tried to win millions in the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top program, the state failed. The second time, a group, including union leaders and Miami-Dade schools chief Alberto Carvalho, met in the basement of the state Capitol for 13 hours and worked out a deal, and the state won.
“Hopefully, we won’t have to sit in a basement for 13 consecutive hours doing this again,” Ford said. “I think if we all got back in the room again, we would be able to come up with something that would be workable and benefit kids.”