I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Trouble with the Current Escambia County School District Teacher Evaluations

Here is the issue I have: I feel as though the process of evaluation for teachers in Escambia County needs an overhaul-- and a lot of improvement. I want to make it clear that I'm not bashing the individual school principals---I know that our district has some principals that are outstanding. I think we need, at the district level, to provide more support to our principals so that they can more accurately rate their teachers.

Although the current system, the Escambia Teacher Appraisal System, (ETAS) is an improvement over previous systems, it is still not fully effective (as currently utilized) in identifying underperforming teachers, in my opinion. I’m attaching the most recent data to illustrate what I mean. The below links will take you to the most recent, summarized 2008 teacher evaluation data from last school year for all of the Elementary, Middle, and High Schools in Escambia County:

The way that teachers are currently evaluated would leave an unbiased, neutral observer to believe that more than 96% of our teachers district wide are above average---or at least competent.

Of more than 3,000 instructional personnel district wide—we have less than a half-dozen that are not acceptable? Does that sound right?

Of course it doesn’t. But a thorough drill-down of the numbers conducted on a school by school basis reveals even more troubling issues. Analysis of the data combined with a look at how the schools performed overall on the statewide letter grade system leaves the casual observer with the sense that something is just not adding up… Here is a link to the Florida Department of Education's site that lists the letter grade for every school in Escambia County for the last several years:

For even more expanded information look at the FDOE site at:

Why do some Escambia schools, according to the ETAS evaluations, have NO high performers/excellent performers—but rather 100% are “competent”?

Why are so few schools willing to honestly evaluate their instructional personnel and list some instructional personnel as “in need of improvement?”

Looking at the elementary chart, the results for Belleview Elementary and Semmes Elementary stand out. 100% of the teachers at both of theses schools are “competent”
(None are excellent, high performing, need improvement, or are unsatisfactory). What??

Or how about the middle school chart. Not one teacher at Warrington Middle School is "not acceptable" or "needs improvement"—no--- 90% are "competent" and 10 percent are "excellent" or "high performing". What?? That assessment does not correlate to that schools' student achievement.

(Warrington Middle School's State Assigned letter grades for the last few years are the following:)


At the high school level—30% of High School teachers At Pine Forest were judged to be Excellent, contrasted with only 3% of H.S. teachers at West Florida High School. Neither Pine Forest High School nor West Florida High School listed any instructors in the “not acceptable” category. The state letter grade assigned to each school for last year, 2007-2008 was the following:

Pine Forest High School D
West Florida High School of Advanced Technology A

It is not easy to evaluate teachers; most people understand this—but the data, if accurate, should be more illustrative than it is currently. I believe HONEST evaluations need to be done, to identify low performing instructors (regardless of tenure status) and to help the district weed out these low performers. Students should not be “training pawns” for ineffective teachers.

I copied the phrase "training pawns" from a school district in Ohio that rapidly improved, and has gone from 41st in the state to 1st based on Student Achievement, in part by evaluating teachers honestly and quickly replacing ineffective instructors. more on this district here :

Now more than ever, we in Escambia County need to identify and deal with low performers. This is especially true since this year, at the Teachers Union's insistance, we will not be evaluating and rewarding great Escambia County Teaches with Merit Pay. Because we are precluded from awarding MAP bonuses this year, we need to do what we can to work on the other end of the spectrum--to continue to pursue the best instructional employees we can find and at the same time identify and remove those who have obviously made the wrong career choice.

I look at it like this: Taxpayers are footing the bill for the work we are doing, and we can and need to do a better job of evaluating our employees. We do have issues that make this difficult (Teacher’s Union Contract Language, State Mandated Remediation and Assistance for low performing teachers, Over-burdened school site administrators, etc.), but even with these challenges, I believe we can and must do a better job in student achievement centric instructor evaluations. We need to reward the good ones, and remove the bad ones. We owe it to all of our district employees, the area taxpayers, and most importantly our students-- to do this expeditiously.

It is my opinion that this is an area that must be addressed before we will see student achievement in this district rise to its full potential. I believe that the current superintendent and administration have this issue squarely on their radar as an area that needs improvement--and as a board member I will do my part to support the improvement of this policy/process.

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