An administrative law judge in Florida this week upheld new rules by the State Department of Education that require significantly more of state college faculty members — particularly in the areas of student success — for them to earn continuing contracts (the equivalent of tenure).
As InsiderHigher Ed reports, “The United Faculty of Florida, the faculty union in the state, had challenged the new rules as beyond the scope of the department’s powers. But the judge rejected that view and said that the board was within its rights. The rules affect faculty members at the state college system, which was formerly a community college system but no longer uses that label as many of the former community colleges have introduced some four-year programs. The system — with 28 colleges, nearly 25,000 faculty members and 879,000 students — is among the largest in the United States.
“Colleges and universities nationally have been under increasing pressure to demonstrate their success (as institutions) in student learning. And there has been a strong push in some K-12 districts to evaluate teachers in part based on student learning gains as measured by tests. But the movement is unpopular with educators, who say that such systems tend to punish instructors who — however talented and committed they are — teach poorly prepared or disadvantaged students.
The rules that have now been approved state that each district president, after consulting with faculty, should develop a system to evaluate faculty members, using “appropriate criteria to measure student success.” Those criteria “may include”:
- Demonstrated or documented learning gains.
- Course completion rates.
- Graduation and/or certification rates.
- Continued success in subsequent and additional courses or educational pursuits.
- Job placements in the appropriate field.
“The criteria would be used not only for awarding new continuing contracts, but also for the equivalent of post-tenure reviews, which are also mandated by the new rules. The faculty challenge to the new rules said that the state board lacked the authority to make such specific changes in the way continuing contracts are awarded.”