Miami-Dade School Leaders Say More Time Needed Before New Standardized Subject Tests Implemented

The state of Florida evaluates teacher performance based, in part, on the principal's observations and on how well the teacher's students score on the FCAT and the end-of-course exams. That is unless a teacher teaches a subject for which there is no standardized test, like music, art, or wood shop. Roughly two-thirds of Florida's public school teachers fall into that category.

"We're trying to evaluate teachers based on something that they don't control at all, in what other profession do we ask people to do that?" said United Teachers of Dade President Fedrick Ingram.

Here's what the teachers' union president is talking about: for classes with no standardized test, the teacher is graded on how well other students in the school score on the FCAT reading test. Ingram says the entire evaluation system is inherently unfair and a huge waste of taxpayer money.

"Take a look at it this way," said Miami-Dade School Board member Dr. Martin Karp. "You have a student that gets a particular score, that impacts you, you've never met that student, that's a big problem."

Starting next school year, a teacher's pay and job security will be tied directly to the evaluation. So the state is rushing to create standardized tests for every class.

"Really, let's be realistic, we're not ready for this, the state isn't ready," Karp said.

Karp, who is a former teacher, said the state should hit the brakes and "do it right” – and not rush into it.

"We want to make things better, does this make things better? I think that's the question that we have to ask," Karp said.

Miami-Dade's director of human capital, Dr. Enid Weisman, said creating, implementing, and scoring new standardized exams will cost each school district millions of dollars. Miami-Dade is among the districts asking for more time.

"We're very hopeful that before consequences are implemented that there will be some change in the statutes," Weisman said, adding that teaches demoralized by an unfair system could impact the classroom environment. That "absolutely would affect students," Weisman said.

Everyone NBC 6 talked to supports accountability for teachers, as long as it's fair and taxpayer dollars aren't wasted designing exams for subjects that are nearly impossible to measure.

"We all know that there isn't an infinite pot of money for education, you want the dollars to go where it's gonna make a difference, is this gonna make a difference? That's what I'm concerned about," Karp said.

The flip side of the issue is that teachers who score high on the evaluations will earn merit pay increases, so many teachers who teach core subjects support the concept.
However, with nearly every school district in the state asking that the consequences of the evaluation system be delayed until it can be made fair to all teachers, it may take years, and many millions of dollars, before the evaluations really count.

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