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Failing schools with "highly effective" teachers

FLORIDA - Nearly 98 percent of Florida's teachers are "effective" or "highly effective", according to ratings recently released by the state. But some are asking how that's possible when Florida has a record high number of F-rated schools statewide, including some in our area.

Right now, there are five schools that have an F grade in Escambia County. They include Lincoln Park Elementary, West Pensacola Elementary, Bellview Middle School, Warrington Middle School, and A.A. Dixon Charter School of Excellence. Most of them have more teachers rated as "effective" and "highly effective" than several A, B and C rated schools in our area and throughout the state.

"So they're sayin' the teachers doin' good but the school is getting an F, I don't understand that," said Susan Willis, a mother.

She and other parents say they're confused as to how failing schools could possibly have any teachers that are rated so highly.

Three of the county's failing schools, for example, have a larger percentage of "highly effective" teachers than N.B. Cook Elementary. It's received an A grade five years in a row.

"It's a completely different measure," said Cathy Boehme, a biology instructor at West Florida High School.

Boehme is also the chair of the Escambia County Education Association's evaluation board, meaning she helps decide how teachers are assessed. She says schools and teachers are evaluated very differently.

"The measure of the teacher," Boehme said, "Is based on their classroom practice for 50 percent and their student test scores and their growth for 50 percent."

Boehme says a school, however, is graded on how much all of its students achieve, along with their overall test scores.

"When we have students at lower performing schools," Boehme said, "They come to school at a lower level, they begin school at a lower level."
   
Superintendent Malcolm Thomas said the same.

There are no schools that currently have F grades in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa Counties.