May 29, 2017

Education - Florida Newsmakers of the Year

Mark R. Howard | 1/1/2011

Superintendent, Hillsborough County School District

2010 marked the first operational year of an effort by the Hillsborough County School District, under Superintendent MaryEllen Elia, to change the way the district hires, trains and keeps teachers. The effort will be funded by a seven-year, $100-million award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced in late 2009. The district, the nation's eighth-largest with some 190,000 students, will have to match the Gates funds locally.

The district has begun creating a system in which mentors will be assigned to every new teacher, and every teacher will be evaluated by a team of trained peers, with follow-up aimed at improving their instructional skills. Younger, higher-performing teachers will be able to earn more than some with more seniority. Tenure will be awarded less liberally, and it will be easier to fire poor performers.

Hillsborough's effort drew praise from some because district officials worked closely with union representatives and focus groups that included teachers, parents and community members in developing its plan. It had already taken some steps toward merit pay and incentive pay for teachers who agreed to teach in difficult schools. The
effort also landed Elia on Gov. Rick Scott's education transiton team.

Elia told the St. Petersburg Times the district intended to have nine out of 10 students "college and career ready" by the end of the grant period. In August, her school board rated her performance as "above satisfactory" — two points shy of "outstanding," according to the Tampa Tribune.

Maryellen Elia
[Photo: Mark Wemple]

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