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UPDATED Florida teachers union asks Gov. Rick Scott to halt evaluations with student test scores

Florida teachers have been bracing for a massive change to their professional evaluations. Student test scores and a complicated math formula are supposed to drive half of them, according to a 2011 law, known as SB 736. 

But with the deadline for final 2011-12 evaluations looming, the head of Florida Education Association has asked Gov. Rick Scott to suspend the data-driven part this year.

In a Nov. 5 letter to the Republican governor, who's taken a keen in education of late, FEA President Andy Ford spelled out concerns: blown deadlines, unwieldy timelines to start and problems with the data that will drive the evaluations. 

Ford pointed to a memo from the Department of Education that advised local school districts there could be problems. 

"If your district has situations where a teacher's score may not be an accurate reflection of his/her performance due to the inclusion/exclusion of students, please exercise local discretion on how best to include the information in your evaluation system, in accordance with your approved evaluation plan,"wrote Juan Copa with the Department of Education. 

Ford said the FEA is hoping "someone will step up and say this just doesn't make sense." He said there could be unintended consequences, since under the new law, teacher evaluations will eventually be tied to their pay and tenure by 2014. "We're proceeding with something that we know is inaccurate, but because the law says we have to we're going to do it anyway," Ford said.

Nov. 12 update: 

It appears the plea from Florida Education Association has fallen on deaf ears. 

Student test scores will still drive part of teachers' evaluations from 2011-12. (The data-driven evaluation is also known as the value-added model, or VAM, in public education parlance.) 

"Districts are, indeed, supposed to use VAM scores. Districts incorporate VAM data into their evaluation systems under their own approved plan," Cheryl Etters, the department's spokeswoman, said in an email.

The deadline for districts to report teacher evaluations to the state Department of Education was last Friday. 

Etters said some districts have asked for additional time and the department has "been as flexible as possible." 

The final, final deadline: Dec.1. That's when the DOE reports the results to the Florida Legislature.

--LAURA ISENSEE

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