TAVARES – The percentage of teachers rated highly effective in Lake County has increased to 23 percent in the 2015-16 school year from 11.3 percent in 2014-15, school officials reported.

School board members say the increase is because officials eliminated a two-tier system that made it harder for teachers to become highly effective. The two-tier system measured teachers based on classroom observation scores combined with student achievement measures.

The student achievement scores were stricter, making it harder for teachers to receive highly effective ratings, according to School Board member Stephanie Luke.

Meanwhile, another School Board member said the percentage of teachers rated highly effective increased because administrators are giving a more honest and accurate reflection of a teacher’s performance.

“Administrators are becoming more consistent in how they observe teachers in the classroom,” said Marc Dodd. “We have a number of administrators across 40 different school sites. There is still more that needs to happen to gain greater consistency.”

In April, School Board members admonished the district for its teacher evaluation system, calling it flawed.

Board members were particularly concerned about the disparity between the high percentage of administrators rated as highly effective and the low percentage of teachers who achieved that status.

A Florida Department of Education report showed the percentage of teachers rated highly effective in Lake County has dropped from 15 in 2013-14 school year to 11.3 in 2014. By contrast, 68.9 percent of school district administrators during the 2014-15 school year were rated highly effective. The percentage of highly effective administrators doubled from 2013-14 to 2014-15. In the 2013-14 school year, 32.1 percent of administrators were rated highly effective. Those administrators were awarded an additional $3,500 per person.

District officials made adjustments to the evaluation model for the following school year, which seeks to continue to improve the teacher evaluation system, according to school officials. Those adjustments were presented to the School Board Monday.

The model was implemented by the TEAM committee, consisting of teachers, principals and district staff.

Adjustments include: Decreasing the number of evaluations for experienced teachers; lowering the percentage of teacher evaluations that are tied to test scores from 50 percent to 35 percent; and implementing a uniform way of evaluating teachers that is less subjective.

Teacher evaluations are made up of three components: 35 percent of the score is based on student achievement; 45 percent on observations of teachers in the classroom; and 20 percent is based on a teacher’s deliberate practice plan, allowing teachers to pick a strategy within the observations to develop and grow within. They develop a plan of action or project to improve their practice.

Stuart Klatte, president of the LCEA, said the plan is an improvement but not perfect because it is still based on a state law known as the Value Added Model unfairly tying test scores to teacher evaluations.

The Value Added Model is the state’s prediction for how a student should perform from one year to the next. If the student exceeds this prediction then the teacher receives credit in their VAM score for the student’s performance. If they miss the state target it works against them negatively.

“We know VAM is not statistically valid,” Klatte said. “We have an invalid system evaluating teachers.”

While also acknowledging improvements in the teacher evaluation system, Dodd also said there are still problems.

“Teachers are still going to be assigned test scores for students in subjects they don’t teach,” he said. “The statute provides us to allow the teacher to assess the student in their own way to determine if they are mastering the standard in their own way. The district’s problem is the district does not trust the teacher.”

Another problem with the evaluation system concerns AP teachers, Dodd said.

“Because of our open enrollment we end up with students that shouldn’t be in AP classes,” he said. “The teachers are held accountable for those students’ results.”

Further, Dodd said he was troubled the district went ahead and trained teachers concerning the changes without waiting for the School Board to approve the plan

“They undermined the School Board’s authority,” he said. “Let’s say the School Board wanted to make a change to it now.”

As a result, he said it would be more difficult after the teachers are trained.

But Luke disagreed.

“I don’t think the board should be in control of that,” she said.