Miami-Dade Schools

Miami-Dade teachers to receive evaluations, bonuses

 

dsmiley@MiamiHerald.com

With the current school year nearing an end, Miami-Dade’s teachers will finally learn in the next few weeks how they were evaluated for the job they did last year and how much of a bonus they’ll receive.

Next week, teachers will receive performance-pay awards worth up to $6,500 each through a merit pay program unique to Miami-Dade schools. They’ll also likely learn this month the ranking they were assigned for the first time under Florida’s new, controversial evaluation method now that their union has finished negotiating “cut scores” with the district.

The evaluations and performance bonuses are unrelated, and the timing of their release coincidence, according to the school district.

The pending release of definitive evaluations comes months after the state issued a list of how teachers in each district fared under a new “value-added” model that seeks to use standardized tests to determine a teacher’s effect on students’ performance. The evaluations, which also include principal observations, will determine a teacher’s pay and job security by the 2014-15 school year, assuming a legal challenge doesn’t hold up.

United Teachers of Dade President Karen Aronowitz said negotiations over the tipping point between scores — identifying teachers as “highly effective,” “effective,” “developing/needs improvement,” or “unsatisfactory” — led to a delay in final results. Teachers who consistently fall in the latter two categories will be in jeopardy of losing their jobs. The ability to negotiate those scores is part of the union’s contract.

“We wanted our teachers to really rank at the top of the state,” Aronowitz said. “We did have to go many times to the table to say we need to have a much larger number of people earning the accolade of highly effective and effective.”

According to the union, negotiations ended with 30.6 percent of Miami-Dade teachers rated “highly effective,” 68.6 percent “effective,” and 0.8 percent as “developing/needs improvement.” None were rated “unsatisfactory.”

That’s a change from January, when the district gave the top ranking to just 765 of about 22,000 teachers.

Aronowitz said teachers deserved better scores after a year in which the district won the Broad Prize, among other accolades. Also, many teachers who did not teach subjects tested by the FCAT were assigned value-added scores based on their school’s FCAT reading results — an aspect that could be changed this year by proposed bills in the Legislature.

“We were able to move many teachers off of a needs-improvement rating based on circumstances beyond their control,” she said.

Aronowitz said teachers could learn their evaluations within the next two weeks.

But before then, teachers for the second year in a row will receive some $14 million in bonuses awarded by the district through a federal Race to the Top grant. A ceremony naming the district’s top-performing teachers, who receive larger checks, is scheduled for April 15, and Aronowitz said bonuses negotiated each year by the union and district will be paid out on April 19.

Teachers can receive $500 bonuses for three categories: overall school performance; student gains; and the performance of their students on exams, including the FCAT, advanced placement tests and the Florida Alternate Assessment.

“We are very proud of the fact that not through imposition, but through negotiation, during very uncertain financial times, we were able to finalize a Race to the Top performance pay plan that continues to invest in human talent, with $14 million in teacher rewards based on student performance,” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said in a prepared statement.

Enid Weisman, the district’s chief human capital officer, said more teachers will receive bonuses this year, due to the inclusion of more factors to evaluate teachers. Also, there will be dozens fewer top performers, and their checks, which topped out last year at $25,000, will also be smaller. The 50 teachers who receive the larger bonuses this year will earn between $2,500 and $5,000.

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