Nebraska teachers don’t quite make the grade

By: Melina Matthes

A new study examined Nebraska's teachers and gave them a D- in quality. Now, one organization wants Nebraska to adopt reforms seen in Florida that are known to help raise student achievement and graduation rates.

According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, Nebraska isn't up to par. It reflects how our state identifies the effective teachers and how often they fire the ineffective ones. The state received a lower than normal score because it doesn't include student progress.

“As a state we haven't been required to use student data to evaluate teachers, we use it informally to evaluate teachers because teachers are all the time looking at student growth and progress. Principles are looking at it by grade level, by classroom and the teachers are using it to change their practice,” said Assistant Superintendent, Nancy Biggs.

In Nebraska, teachers are evaluated on their knowledge, planning, professionalism and how they incorporate data into their teaching. However, these only represent part of the overall equation. Florida once had a similar guideline for their teachers, but just last year it was revised to incorporate student performance as well.

“In terms of outputs, no where does Nebraska's proposed teacher performance frameworks define effectiveness in terms of student performance. This is the big way Florida differs from Nebraska,” said Dr. Vicki Alger with the Platte Institute.

The reformed Florida guidelines set clear standards, incentives and consequences for teachers. It also empowers schools and parents to act. “Principles now have clear authority to hire or fire teachers based on their success at improving student achievement and achievement growth.  Parents are also armed with information because when their child is assigned to an ineffective teacher's classroom, parents must now be notified and they can take appropriate action,” said Dr. Alger.

Dr. Alger encourages the State of Nebraska to adopt a similar framework to Florida, Biggs says maybe in the future. Right now, State of Nebraska doesn't mandate how teachers are evaluated. The officials are given rules and guidelines to follow.