The Hechinger Report has partnered with the Miami Herald and Bradenton Herald to investigate how new legislation about teacher quality might change education in the state. You can also check out our award-winning project with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on similar issues.



The TeachLivE classroom simulator lets education students get the feel of managing a classroom. The virtual students respond to the teacher’s questions and movements and each student has a distinct personality. (Photo by John O’Connor/StateImpact Florida)

Aspiring teachers learn from their avatars

By Sarah Butrymowicz

Lisa Dieker went around the room asking her middle-school students what they did over the weekend. CJ went to see the movie “Here Comes the Boom” with her boyfriend. Ed played in a basketball game and Kevin posted new dance videos to YouTube. “Did you work on any art projects?” Dieker asked Maria, a girl […]

University of Central Florida elementary education students discuss how to incorporate books, maps, magazines and other materials into lesson plans. John O’Connor/StateImpact Florida. (Photo by Sarah Butrymowicz)

Teacher training programs grapple with recruitment

By Sarah Butrymowicz

Somewhere midway through his sophomore year of college at Florida Atlantic University, Christopher Clevenger started to question his aeronautical engineering major. He liked the coursework, and was doing well at it, but when he thought about his job prospects, the future seemed bleak. “It would be me, a computer screen and a phone,” he said. […]

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Florida plans increased scrutiny for education schools

By Sarah Butrymowicz

ORLANDO―Lee-Anne Spalding’s Elementary School Social Studies class at the University of Central Florida (UCF) had spread out over the room in small groups. One group of sophomore college students huddled over a set of poetry books, picking out ones they liked. Others gathered around the white board as Spalding demonstrated how to they could embed […]

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Will value-added measurement survive the courts?

By Sarah Garland

An ongoing argument raging across the country over whether student test score gains are a fair way to gauge a teacher’s skill has hit the courts. In what may be among the first of many lawsuits over the new evaluations—which have been adopted by multiple states—the Florida teachers union is challenging the state’s use of […]

Florida evaluations see increase in poor ratings

By Sarah Butrymowicz

Florida released preliminary results of its recently revamped teacher evaluations from the 2011-2012 school year Wednesday. There was variation among districts, but statewide more than 2 percent of teachers were rated poorly, compared to less than 1 percent in years prior.

Ponce de Leon Middle School math teacher Phyllis Bellinger talks instructs (left to right) Denis Pacheco, Isabel Canizares, Jamie Brown and Javier Martinez. When Miami-Dade public schools rolled out their performance pay plan to fanfare and cheering last year, it was the first district in Florida to get a head start on what will become a mandated policy in 2014 and felt like it took on frontrunner status in the nation. "We're on the cutting edge for a large urban district," said Enid Weisman. Spurred on largely by competition for federal grants, the vast majority of states are in the midst developing performance pay models. Miami's system is a classic one as far as implementation goes with bonuses rewarded based on student performance on tests; its the kind that research has found doesn't make a significant change in student performance. So just where exactly does Miami rank among its national peers? With a sensitivity paid to getting teacher feedback and taking a multi-year approach to changing the culture, it holds more promise than failed ones in places like New York. But by sticking to test scores as the only variable, Miami is a step behind the multi-layered approaches in places like Denver and Austin. (Al Diaz / Miami Herald Staff)

Report: Miami district needs to improve teacher evaluations

By Laura Isensee

A report to be released Thursday by a national research group on teacher quality suggests the Miami-Dade school district is not doing enough to get rid of underperforming teachers.

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Should value-added teacher ratings be adjusted for poverty?

By Sarah Garland

In Washington, D.C., one of the first places in the country to use value-added teacher ratings to fire teachers, teacher-union president Nathan Saunders likes to point to the following statistic as proof that the ratings are flawed: Ward 8, one of the poorest areas of the city, has only 5 percent of the teachers defined […]

School teacher Lynn Bryan teaches language arts at Ponce de Leon Middle School. When Miami-Dade public schools rolled out their performance pay plan to fanfare and cheering last year, it was the first district in Florida to get a head start on what will become a mandated policy in 2014 and felt like it took on frontrunner status in the nation. "We're on the cutting edge for a large urban district," said Enid Weisman. Spurred on largely by competition for federal grants, the vast majority of states are in the midst developing performance pay models. Miami's system is a classic one as far as implementation goes with bonuses rewarded based on student performance on tests; its the kind that research has found doesn't make a significant change in student performance. So just where exactly does Miami rank among its national peers? With a sensitivity paid to getting teacher feedback and taking a multi-year approach to changing the culture, it holds more promise than failed ones in places like New York. But by sticking to test scores as the only variable, Miami is a step behind the multi-layered approaches in places like Denver and Austin.

Tips for Florida teachers: Don’t mess up in front of the boss

By Sarah Butrymowicz

At an annual training over the summer, Hialeah Senior High School writing teacher Kathy Pham and her colleagues heard what seemed like basic advice from the United Teachers of Dade: Make sure your principal observes you in the classroom this year. And if you have questions, schedule an appointment. The stakes for teacher evaluations in […]

Orlando Sarduy is a math teacher at Coral Reef Senior High. He can understand the basics of the new, complex equation that will grade him and thousands of other teachers across Florida. But it won't grade him as a math teacher -- it will be tied to the school's FCAT reading scores. As Sarduy notes, the new evaluation system is one big experiment. Sarduy works with math students, Oct. 31, 2011. (CHARLES TRAINOR JR / MIAMI HERALD STAFF)

Complex new Florida teacher evaluations tied to student test scores

By Laura Isensee and Sarah Butrymowicz

At Coral Reef Senior High, calculus teacher Orlando Sarduy understands complicated formulas, and knows he will be graded on how his students perform on tests. But despite his advanced knowledge of math, Sarduy cannot explain the statistics-packed formula behind the grade he’ll get. It is so confusing that even a member of the state committee […]

New era of teacher evaluations commences in Florida

By Angeline Taylor and Sarah Butrymowicz

MANATEE, Fla.—About 70 percent of Principal Doug DuPouy’s teachers at Orange Ridge/Bullock Elementary School spent an entire year in the classroom without being formally observed by an administrator. Now, that’s changed. Starting this year, DuPouy or Assistant Principal Greg Sanders, will formally observe each teacher in his or her classroom at least once a year, […]