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Citrus teachers score high in evaluations

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Criteria will determine merit pay

By Mike Wright

Number of Citrus County teachers per category:

* Highly effective: 463.

* Effective: 691.

* Needs improvement: 16.

* Developing (3 years or less): 19.

* Unsatisfactory: None.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise Citrus County’s high-performing school district employs high-performing teachers.

The state Department of Education on Wednesday released its first teacher evaluation ratings report using criteria that eventually will be used to help determine teacher merit pay.

For now, the report is only informational. Individual teacher reports are not available to the public for one year.

The report shows 97 percent of Citrus County public school teachers scored in the “highly effective” or “effective” categories. The remaining teachers were in either a “needs improvement” or “developing” category, the latter being for teachers with three years or less on the job.

District officials said the results reflect the district’s seven straight years as being an “A” district, brought on by consistently high standardized test scores.

“It does mirror our students’ success,” said Patrick Simon, director of research and accountability.

Teachers are scored on two basic criteria:

One, principals observe teachers, watching for effective teaching practices.

Two, a multitude of test scores. Simon said the second criteria combines scores from numerous testing areas.

For teachers whose students do not take standardized tests in their classrooms, such as physical education or music, the school’s average of test scores are used in the teacher scoring.

In the so-called value-added model, it is difficult to pinpoint problem areas, Simon said.

By 2015, the scores will have an impact on teacher pay. All new teachers will be enrolled in the program by then, and current teachers have the option of joining the program. The advantage is the chance for bonuses by scoring in the top two categories. The risk is teachers give up tenure and work on an annual contract.

Simon and assistant superintendent of schools Mike Mullen said even though the scores released Wednesday have no bearing on their pay, teachers pay close attention anyway.

“We have teachers who have high expectations of themselves,” Simon said.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, the Department of Education had not yet posted the report. 

Six Citrus County schools had more than 50 percent of their teachers score in the “highly effective” category. They are: Renaissance Center (83 percent), Citrus High (64.5 percent), Inverness Middle (57 percent), Citrus Springs Middle (56 percent), Lecanto High (56 percent) and Crystal River Middle (53 percent).

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.