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Hernando teacher Bethann Brooks joins 6 teachers in federal lawsuit over teacher evaluation system

5:39 PM, Apr 17, 2013   |    comments
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A lack of fairness is why Bethann Brooks, from Central High School in Brooksville, says she joined a federal lawsuit against the state over its teacher evaluation system.
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Brooksville, Florida -- How would you like to be evaluated based on someone else's performance? Fair? You may not think so. That's what many Florida teachers say is happening to them and soon that evaluation will show up in their paycheck. 

A group of Florida teachers are taking the state to court.

Seven teachers, including Bethann Brooks from Central High School in Brooksville, are suing the state's Education Commissioner and the State Board of Education for what they say is an unfair system that violates their constitutional rights.

"It's not evaluating my teaching ability, not evaluating how I teach, or areas I teach. It's a flawed system," says Bethann Brooks. 

A lack of fairness is why Brooks says she joined a federal lawsuit against the state over its teacher evaluation system.

"It's looking at scores for the FCAT for the school," she says.

Brooks teaches health science to mostly juniors and seniors at Central High School in Brooksville, yet half of her evaluation score is based on reading FCAT scores for freshman and sophomores.

"I'm not a reading teacher," she contends. "I can add reading strategies as best I can -- but I'm not a reading teacher. And also, to be evaluated on students I don't even know..."

Starting next year, those same FCAT scores impacting a teacher's evaluation will impact a teacher's pay. 

Brooks says, "You don't want to lose pay for a school-wide FCAT when you don't teach those students."

State leaders agree the teacher evaluation system under the Student Success Act needs tweaking.

Governor Rick Scott says he supports new legislation to make the system fairer.  

"I've not had one teacher that said they don't want to be evaluated. They want to make sure it's fair. They want to make sure they are evaluated based on their students' achievement and we're aggressively working on legislation that I think is going to move us down that path."

Florida Education Association President Andy Ford says the best system that would be in place would be one that the local would develop instead of having a statewide system.

The proposed legislation would evaluate teachers on the students they teach. In Brooks' case, out of a 100 students about a dozen are sophomores who take the reading FCAT. Brooks says 10 percent of her students would determine half of her score again she says that's not fair.

Florida Education Association officials say this legislation is a step in the right direction but with only a few weeks left in the legislative process Ford worries it's not moving fast enough.

Isabel Mascarenas

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