State Board of Education members on Wednesday bemoaned an embarrassing and credibility damaging glitch that occurred when Florida released the first results from its new teacher evaluation system.
The panel, meeting in Tampa, also endorsed a proposal to eliminate state textbook adoption and called for celebrating the achievement of Florida's 2011 fourth-graders who came in a close second on an international reading test.
The Department of Education last week posted results showing 97 percent of Florida's teachers were rated as "effective" or "highly effective" on a Web page only to take it down hours later because of errors.
It was restored the next day after being corrected with the percentage virtually unchanged, but board members said the episode cost the state credibility.
The evaluations have been contentious with many teachers and their unions opposed to a heavy reliance on student test scores.
"Before we put anything on our website or before we release, there must be a thorough review of the data and multiple eyeballs looking at it," said board member A.K. Desai. "It takes everything away and distracts the students, parents, others and makes us look incompetent."
Board member Kathleen Shanahan said people sometimes are afraid to let others review their work "because we feel like it's going to make us look weak and that's not the case."
Interim Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said the problem occurred because some school districts submitted duplicate reports, which are required for salary information in certain cases but not for the evaluations.
Stewart noted the results for the last school year were the first using what's called a value-added model.
"We'll get better at it every single year," she said.
Board members also urged staffers to do more to call more attention to international reading scores released Tuesday by the National Center for Education Statistics.
Florida's overall fourth-grade reading score was 569, just two points behind Hong Kong and ahead of 54 other school systems including the United States overall, Canada, Germany, Israel, Sweden, Denmark, Chinese Taipei, Great Britain and France.
Board member Roberto "Bobby" Martinez won the panel's support for his legislative proposal that would repeal a law requiring the state to decide which textbooks school districts can purchase. Martinez said it's an outmoded requirement in the electronic age. He said schools and teachers should be given the flexibility to choose from a wider array of materials whether in book form or digital.
It was his final act as a board member as his term expires at the end of the year.
The board also passed a rule change to implement a new law allowing active duty service personnel and veterans to earn college credit for military training.