The CAST system is how Duval County rates its teachers. Our salary, retention and termination are completely dependent on this metric. You would think great care would be taken to ensure all teachers are treated fairly. You unfortunately would be incorrect. Through State Law, District Policy, or a combination of the two, the system we use to grade teachers is a mess, and as I think you will see, really tells us almost nothing about the quality of a teacher.
Don’t get me wrong — in all professions, some “bad” workers slip through the cracks; teaching is not an exception, and we must minimize this. But in order to do so, we must be measured properly with qualitative measures.
For the skeptical, you can be the judge of the current quantitative CAST system. I present to the committee: three teachers at Sandalwood marked “Needs Improvement” (bottom 9% of all teachers). They are personal friends, which is the only reason I’m aware of their issues. Each story is being shared with the teacher’s permission. I’m sure there are dozens of others.
Teacher #1 was a three-time Teacher of the Year (in two different schools) and one-time finalist for DCPS Teacher of the Year. He’s a history professor at FSCJ. He created and teaches Holocaust and Vietnam curriculum, and is a dual enrollment teacher. He is a two-time recipient of the quantitative “Needs Improvement” rating. Teacher #2 was a young Math teacher, lauded as a top teacher by administrators and students. Despite her young age, she was selected as Math department head. When I returned to Sandalwood, I was told to observe her as a “master teacher”. She took the initiative and time to visit me during her own planning time, providing course materials, lesson plans and advice when I replaced a teacher mid-year. She received a “Needs Improvement” rating last year, and resigned as a result. Teacher #3 regularly tutors other teachers’ students and coaches multiple sports. He stepped into the GIS Academy mid-year, saving it after a teacher’s death. His students earned multiple industry certifications. He helped secure multiple business partnerships and in-kind donations for the school, but he “Needs Improvement”.
I now ask you: is there any chance these three are part of the bottom 9%? Did lawmakers think the process through properly? Do we truly believe these teachers are the ones who must change?
The effect of all this is, good teachers either resign in disgust, or fight long, protracted, stressful, year-long battles to preserve their careers. I think you will agree these teachers are fighting battles that shouldn’t have to be fought in the first place. And it’s because some combination of Duval County and the State of Florida did not take the proper steps to ensure a complete, fair system to grade teachers.
Maybe it’s time we realized some things, like the impact and value of a K-12 teacher, can’t be accurately measured with a number.