August 12, 2022

Miami-Dade County Public Schools teachers illegally and improperly evaluated?

teacher Miami Dade

Miami-Dade County Public Schools teachers most likely have been illegally and improperly evaluated since July 2011 as they were not properly trained in their Race To The Top imposed teacher evaluation system, IPEGS, per The Student Success Act (SB 736) of 2011, passed by the Florida Legislature, according to a report released last February by the Office of the Auditor General for the State of Florida.

Report No. 2013-108 addressed two key issues: training of personnel per state law to comply with legal and contractual obligations per Florida’s ESEA Flexibility Request Waiver, which stated school districts were supposed to train their employees in their respective evaluation systems in the summer and fall of 2011 and finalize training and begin implementation of the new evaluation by September 30, 2011 (p.155)  per Florida’s Race To The TopApplication with the USDOE;  and improprieties concerning the implementation of IPEGS procedures by school administrators at a local high school, Miami Norland Senior High School.

The report draws a reasonable conclusion that the lack of statutory mandated training led to noncompliance by school administration in the 2011-12 school year: “Insufficient professional development training may have also contributed to the performance assessment control deficiencies noted in Finding No. 2” (p. 2).

The report concluded “… District records did not evidence the basis upon which the four points were awarded as the video consisted of only 25 minutes of instruction, which represented less than one inservice professional development point. Upon additional inquiry, we were provided school meeting agendas and individual professional development plans indicating that the IPEGS training included more time than the 25-minute video; however, District records did not identify timeframes, or include time records, evidencing actual time spent by the 20,230 employees participating in additional IPEGS training. As a result, District records did not evidence that the clock hours of training were enough to support awarding each of the 20,230 employees four inservice points, or a total of 80,920 inservice points.”

  • On August 18 and 19, 2011, 20,230 instructional personnel viewed four videos totaling 25 minutes that addressed changes made to IPEGS per RTTT and SB 736. According to District personnel, the registration procedures;
  • Concerning the viewing of a series of videos for 25 minutes in August 2011;
  • As I have been an active union member for over 13 years and an active union steward for 8 years, I filed a grievance against these actions in March 2012.
  • For my part, I reported this right away to my principal, and then to the Auditor General of Florida.

The actions undertaken by Miami-Dade County Public Schools conflicts with state law:

  • § 1012.98, Florida Statutes, sets forth requirements for educational training programs with further requirements stated in State Board Rule 6A-5.071. For example, according to 6A-5.071, inservice points awarded for successful completion of a component shall be assigned as follows: (a) One inservice point shall be equivalent to one clock hour of participation, (b) Points awarded for completion of college credit shall equate to inservice participation as follows: 1. One semester hour shall equal twenty inservice points, 2. One quarter hour shall equal thirteen and one-third inservice points.
  • “The district school board shall provide training programs that are based upon guidelines provided by the Department of Education to ensure that all individuals with evaluation responsibilities understand the proper use of the assessment criteria and procedures.” FS §1012.34 (2)(f).
  • “All personnel must be fully informed of the criteria and procedures associated with the assessment process before the assessment takes place.” FS §1012.34 (3)(4)(b)

On August 18 and 19, 2011, 20,230 instructional personnel viewed four videos totaling 25 minutes that addressed changes made to IPEGS per RTTT and SB 736. According to District personnel, the registration procedures “were modified for this course in an effort to accommodate the high volume of participants and meet the law requirements before the beginning of the school year.”

According to state law and Florida’s Professional Development System Evaluation Protocol, as explained on the M-DCPS Professional Development website, courses are supposed to be posted at least two weeks in advance; participants register on their own volition; courses are a minimum of four hours; participants complete the follow-up work; and participants have to complete a course evaluation to earn Master Plan Points.

Concerning the viewing of a series of videos for 25 minutes in August 2011, which the District still maintains as IPEGS training, per the aforementioned report issued by the Auditor General of Florida, none of these procedural steps mandated by state law and State Board of Education Rules occurred. To download the letter from the FL IG click here.

To clarify, the “training” was not posted whatsoever for registration, participants signed an informal roster; the session lasted 25 minutes; participants did not register on their own volition; and participants did not complete follow-up work or a required course evaluation.

Yet, four (4) Master Plan Points, indicating four hours of  IPEGS training, were posted to the professional development records of the 20,230 teachers who viewed the videos the previous August  in November and December of 2011, thereby allowing M-DCPS to assess and evaluate them to comply with Race To the Top and Florida’s Student Success Act.

As referenced in Finding No. 2 of the Auditor General’s report, assessing and evaluating teachers proved to be a troubling task for school administrators at Miami Norland Senior High School: failure to adhere to timelines; concurrent observation times, dates, and notes for multiple employees; and in the case of the author, no observation was done whatsoever.

Troubling questions are raised concerning teacher certification and possible misuse of federal funds earmarked for training teachers in IPEGS.

For teachers in Florida, 120 Master Plan Points are needed for certification renewal. M-DCPS teachers who have renewed their certificates since November 15, 2011, with tainted points may have done so illegally especially if they renewed with 123 points or less (123-4 fraudulent points= 119; 120 is needed for legal renewal).

M-DCPS most likely received federal funding to train their teachers in IPEGS.

According to Florida’s Race To The Top Application, funds were allocated as follows:

“Year 2 (2011-2012): $1,065,776 to contract for the training of district staff and implementation of new teacher and principal evaluations incorporating statewide student growth measures. LEAs will also pilot additional teacher-level student growth measures (p.296).”

This leads to two questions:

1. How much of these funds did the FLDOE distribute to M-DCPS?

2. The District, with the exception of new teachers, did not train teachers in IPEGS, though state law mandated it. What did the district do with the funds?

For my part, I reported this right away to my principal, and then to the Auditor General of Florida and the Office of Inspector General for Miami-Dade County as required by state law and Florida’s Code of Ethics for Educator’s.  The Office of Inspector General for Miami-Dade County declined to take action and deferred action to the Auditor General of Florida.

My concerns were forwarded to Gov. Scott’s office and the Inspector General for the Florida Department of Education; both entities declined to investigate and intervene citing “local control.”  Other FLDOE officials declined to take action along similar lines.

Though the state has inherent police powers to enforce and regulate its laws, Florida has seemed to abdicate its responsibility in this affair and has taken a “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” persona with its collective head in the sand. FLDOE tends to do this from time to time, perhaps due to understaffing and underfunding; and we wonder why school districts run amuck?!

To its credit, the FLDOE took limited action and effected change in 2009 in the form of a Professional Development Protocol Review. After M-DCPS received the results from their last review in 2009, the Teacher Education Center was closed and reopened as the Center for Professional Learning with a new director and the District offered a remedial plan in the form of a RTTT compliance document.

Given the Auditor General’s report, not much was learned; it will be interesting to see what the FLDOE Professional Development Protocol Review for M-DCPS in February 2014 will yield and what actions, if any, will be taken.

What of the folks in M-DCPS administration that perpetrated these actions? Where is the accountability for them, given that they stuck it to the teachers and school administrators that partook in the MOTET cash-for-teacher certification points scandal in 2004 and 2005?

As I have been an active union member for over 13 years and an active union steward for 8 years, I filed a grievance against these actions in March 2012. The United Teachers of Dade initially refused to process it, though they supported my efforts leading up to the grievance, and UTD reversed itself and processed the grievance in May 2012-solely on my behalf and excluding the rest of the bargaining unit.  Never mind these issues affect the entire school district!

After being denied at all three levels (school, region, district), the grievance supposedly had been set for arbitration in February 2013 with a hearing date yet to be determined.

Taking a cue from UTD, the Florida Education Association has been largely silent as well.  After conferring with President Andy Ford and Vice President Joanne McCall at the UTD opening meeting for stewards, they said my concerns will be forwarded to their legal department for review.

On the following Sunday, their chief legal counsel, Pam Cooper, called me and said FEA leadership will confer with the Education Commissioner, Pam Stewart, and discuss my concerns.  As I emailed her and other FLDOE officials before to no avail, I know where that will get me!

The United Teachers of Dade bemoans IPEGS, laments administrator misdeeds and missteps in implementation, and holds workshops and town halls on the subject while crying about Gov. Rick Scott and Senate Bill 736, yet UTD does not fully support my grievance which can most likely invalidate the results from IPEGS for the past two school years and possibly this school year.

Troubling yet, UTD, and other teacher unions, have supported the very person who created this mess and nary ever criticized him for it: President Barack Obama. If one listened to the union gripes and didn’t know better, one would think this mess originated with President George W. Bush and Republicans, not President Obama and his Race To The Top program.

Historically, federal involvement in education has been a supportive role; but the NCLB and RTTT programs have been very invasive and detrimental to education.  President Obama capitalized on the recession to force states to change their laws to allow for basing teacher evaluations on student test scores or they would not receive much needed funds or relaxation in accountability rules in the form of RTTT and/or NCLB flexibility waivers.

Cash-starved states took the RTTT funds with little to no real commitment to RTTT; school administrators relegated their new found responsibilities in observing and evaluating as “another something to do;” and the teachers and their students have suffered.

And folks wonder why good teachers get frustrated and quit or retire early, depriving students of much needed good teachers? You think?!

About Trevor Colestock

Trevor Colestock has been the Library Media Specialist and a union steward at Miami Norland Senior High School for the past seven years. Mr. Colestock had been an ESE teacher at Miami Central Senior High School for seven years prior. Mr. Colestock holds an AA in History from Miami-Dade Community College, a BA in History from Florida International University, a Master’s in Library and Information Science from the University of South Florida, and a Specialist in Library and Information Studies from Florida State University. Trevor also writes about education issues for Bear Witness Central.