Editorial: Pasco Schools Need Work

| The Tampa Bay Times

The Pasco County School District should take seriously the results of a three-month study that found the district is failing in several key areas, including the implementation of the state's new academic standards and effectively evaluating and retaining teachers. It is encouraging that Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning allowed researchers to conduct the study to check his district's performance against the new Florida Standards. Now the district should work to fix its well-documented problems and make sure its schools provide students with a quality education that best positions them for success.

The Tampa Bay Times' Jeffrey R. Solochek reported earlier this month that the nonprofit New Teacher Project released the study after surveying the district from November to February. Researchers observed 100 classrooms in six schools and found stunning lapses in the implementation of the state's new standards. Only 5 percent of the teachers observed, for example, were making changes in their instruction that are required by the new standards. A majority of teachers did not believe that the new standards would help prepare their students for college and careers. And in too many instances textbooks and district-prepared materials did not jibe with the new standards.

Across all subject areas, only 39 percent of the schoolwork students received matched the new standards. While 66 percent of students met the expectations of the assignments given, only 25 percent of those students met the demands of the new standards, suggesting that the work is far too easy, the report said. These figures are far too low for a public school district that is supposed to be implementing statewide standards. The data also show a district with a concerning disregard for the new standards that has irresponsibly set its students up for failure against new testing metrics.

Pasco's challenges extend into personnel issues. According to the report, Pasco has an ineffective teacher evaluation system in which nearly 99 percent of all teachers are rated either “effective” or “highly effective,” a sure sign that the system cannot be trusted. The district also limits its pool of qualified teaching candidates because it extends offers late in the season, bringing on nearly 40 percent of new employees shortly before or after the new school year begins. And Pasco struggles to retain teachers, which could be related to its low salaries compared with other bay area counties.

The report contains some good recommendations that the district would be wise to implement. Retooling its teacher evaluation system and using teacher learning groups to focus on instruction planning rather than shoptalk are good places to start. The district also must immediately require teachers to align lessons with the new standards.

The report has provided Pasco with a clear-eyed assessment of where the district stands. Browning and his staff have said they are committed to fixing the problems outlined in the report. The staff plans to present suggestions for improvement to the School Board in May. They cannot afford to make pronouncements of big ideas that ultimately go nowhere. They should come up with concrete solutions to improve the county's educational offerings and follow through with implementation.

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

Learn More About TNTP