Monday, September 3, 2012

Statement from FEA about Merit Pay Ruling

I am still a little confused about the significance of the recent ruling of a Florida judge against aspects of the new merit pay system. The Florida Educators Association is treating it like a huge victory whereas the Department of Education is acting as though it is not a big deal. The DOE only sees itself making some technical changes but continuing everything else as normal. Here is a statement from FEA:

TALLAHASSEE – An administrative law judge today invalidated in its entirety the rule the State Board of Education had sought to impose upon Florida school districts, teachers and administrators regarding performance evaluations under the law passed last year requiring evaluations to be based in large part upon standardized test scores. 

In the challenge brought by the Florida Education Association, Judge John G. Van Laningham found, among other things, that the State Board of Education and Department of Education had not followed proper procedures in trying to incorporate into the evaluation process a mathematical formula for calculating the effect of FCAT scores on teacher evaluations. 

The judge concluded that the state’s numerous failures to follow correct rulemaking procedures were so significant as to “taint” the resulting rule, and that the flaws “cannot be cured without starting over and redoing the process.” 

“This is a huge victory in our battle for fair, reliable and valid evaluations,” said FEA President Andy Ford. “The State Board of Education and the Department of Education skirted rule-making procedures and exceeded the scope of their authority. It’s time for the state’s education bureaucracy to stop trying to impose its will on teachers and administrators and start having a meaningful dialogue with us to put together a fair evaluation system that is understandable, valid and accepted.”

This decision does not mean that teachers’ 2011-12 performance evaluations are invalid under the bargained evaluation systems already approved by the DOE for Race to the Top purposes, nor does it erase the statutory requirement to rely upon the education commissioner’s approved model to measure student learning gains as part of the 2011-12 evaluation process. It does mean that none of the proposed, mandatory 2012-2013 evaluation system changes will become effective at this time.

The state can appeal this order to a District Court of Appeal within the next 30 days, but the proposed rule will remain unenforceable while that appeal proceeds.  The DOE also can begin a new rulemaking process and attempt to correct the problems found by the judge. 

The evaluation system rule was challenged by FEA in March and the case was heard by Van Laningham on May 30 in Tallahassee.

The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with more than 140,000 members. FEA represents pre K-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational support professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.

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