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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 03/24/2010

Disaster for Florida teachers: Senate Bill 6

By Valerie Strauss

Support by President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan for using student standardized test scores as one measure to evaluate teacher performance gives license for legislators to take that thinking to extremes.

That’s what is happening in Florida, where the state Senate is considering legislation, Senate Bill 6, that would, if passed, go a long way toward destroying the teaching profession in the state.

It already has been approved by the Senate Ways and Means committee, 15-8, on a party-line vote, and is scheduled to go to the chamber floor this week. The Florida House would then have to approve it.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. John Thrasher, the new head of Florida’s Republican Party, would require that school systems evaluate and pay teachers primarily on the basis of student test scores.

What would not factor into teacher pay would be advanced degrees and professional credentials, including National Board Certification, which requires teachers to pass a competitive series of tests that is considered the gold standard for educators.

It gets worse: Experience in the classroom wouldn’t matter either. And student test results would determine which teachers get targeted when layoffs are necessary.

Thrasher himself calls the bill “the hammer,” which he says is necessary to force the Florida teachers union to end its opposition to merit pay for teachers.

His bill includes a demand that end-of course assessments be developed or acquired in all subjects not measured by state assessments or other tests such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate. But it doesn’t provide any money to accomplish the task--even if there was research suggesting these kinds of tests would be useful evaluation measures, which there isn’t.

There’s a lot of other awful components to the bill: Newly hired teachers would be on probation for five years and then work on annual contracts for the rest of their careers, for example.

The reason this is so dangerous is because standardized test scores, as has been said previously on this blog, are in no way a fair representation of how well a teacher has done his or her job--or for that matter how much a student has really learned.

Standardized tests used today in schools are nowhere near sophisticated enough -- if indeed any single test can be -- to serve as an important measure of performance.

Many students take the test sick, or hungry, or tired, or anxious, or depressed. How can a teacher be held responsible for those conditions?

“The point is that on any given day, in any curriculum area measured, dozens of influences could affect the scores of a student or a class,” assessment expert David Berliner wrote in this post. “The scores obtained on any one day may diverge a lot from the scores obtained on another day.”

Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham has also noted here that “growth models yield scores that are unstable.”

“Teachers who look pretty good one year might look pretty bad the next. This problem may be inherent in growth scores because fall and spring scores tend to be highly correlated. Once you’ve accounted for fall scores, there may not be much variability left in the spring scores that is not due to error," he wrote.

You might think that Florida legislators would think twice about using standardized test scores for high-stakes reasons.

A new report by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center on Education Policy on schools that failed to reach “adequate yearly progress” in the 2008-09 school year (the latest available data) shows that 77 percent of Florida’s public schools did not meet the requirement under No Child Left Behind. Adequate yearly progress, or AYP, is measured exclusively by standardized test scores.

Is it possible that 77 percent of the state’s public schools are performing poorly, or is it more likely that the formula for calculating makes no sense?

All of this explains why Willingham is correct when he says it is a bad idea to use these test scores as any part of teacher evaluation.

Obama and Duncan need to see the havoc that can be wrought from their support of the idea on any level.


For more on the Florida teachers legislation and how teachers are righting back, go to http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/education-secretary-duncan/teachers-fight-back.html

AND

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/no-child-left-behind/-it-would-be-funny.html


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Follow my blog all day, every day by bookmarking washingtonpost.com/answersheet And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our new Higher Education page at washingtonpost.com/higher-ed Bookmark it!

By Valerie Strauss  | March 24, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Education Secretary Duncan, Standardized Tests, Teachers  | Tags:  Arne Duncan, Florida legislature, President Obama, standardized tests, teacher pay, teachers  
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Next: NAEP reading scores: Bad news was sadly predictable

Comments

one has to wonder when politicians develop any measuring stick.. Just look at the recent healthcare bill... Took over a year to put together and doesn't flow.

Posted by: robinhood2 | March 24, 2010 7:35 AM | Report abuse

Those who try to apply a business model to education assume that educated children are the product. In fact test scores have become the product. Teachers are watching our schools turn into test-score factories at our students' expense. Even business experts have noted the problem: you get too much of what you measure, too little of everything else.

An increase in test pressure, combined with a decrease in recognition of NBCT status, experience, and advanced degrees is likely to drive the most qualified teachers out of Florida, and the most qualified people out of teaching. Punishing teachers for not solving all of their students' problems in time for test day will push teachers away from the kids who need them most. This is a political move with serious unintended consequences.

Roxanna Elden
Miami Teacher
Author of "See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers"

Posted by: RoxannaElden | March 24, 2010 7:52 AM | Report abuse

10 minutes to take attendance, 20 Minutes to pass your homework to you niehbor and self correct, 10 minutes to listen to the teaches views. That leaves 20 minutes to learn from the text book. These so called school teachers should be making $15,000 per year.

Posted by: stephenbuss | March 24, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Will Thraser take any ACCOUNTABILITY for the harm he is doing with his legislation? Of course not.

Posted by: jlp19 | March 24, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

"10 minutes to take attendance, 20 Minutes to pass your homework to you niehbor and self correct, 10 minutes to listen to the teaches views. That leaves 20 minutes to learn from the text book. "

I have been in many classrooms and observed many teachers. THIS IS NOT WHAT IS GOING ON.

Posted by: jlp19 | March 24, 2010 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Excellent ideas are always useful.

Extending the thinking of the Florida legislation, we could save millions by denying health care to terminally ill people and firing/reducing payments to all doctors who insist on providing care to patients who die (poor success rates by doctors) as well as others requiring hospice care.

Posted by: jaylevin | March 24, 2010 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Those who can't do become legislators in Florida.

This is an absolute disgrace and will only harm the youth of Florida if this draconian anti-education bill is passed. It is further evidence that education policy should not be made by the legislature.

As a parent and a teacher I would be organizing to march on the legislature to demand full funding and equal quality education for every youth by experienced qualified teachers.

There are so many problems with standardized tests that idea that they are an adequate measure on how much a student has learned is questionable at best. For them to be utilized as a measure of teacher effectiveness flies in the face of reality.

I hope for the people of Florida that this bill is defeated and the boneheads who support are also defeated.

Posted by: bostonteacher20 | March 24, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

RoxanneElden, you say "This is a political move with serious unintended consequences."

Yes, regarding the students, it's terrible, but think how much it will save the state in teacher salaries. I'm afraid these consequences are indeed intended.


Jaylevin - excellent points re medical care - I hope you can make them loudly and clearly to the Florida legislature before it's too late.

Posted by: efavorite | March 24, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

They just want to save money. It's obvious.
Everyone who cares will send their kids to private schools.

Posted by: celestun100 | March 24, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

I think it is a disaster for Florida, mainly for the kids and anyone who has to rely on them in the future.

Posted by: celestun100 | March 24, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Let me see if I got this right

Obama worked hard for health care reform with a public option, and is hell bent on removing the public option from education?

Posted by: mamoore1 | March 24, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Thank you for addressing this on the national level. Many people do not have a current knowldege of what goes on in schools today. When I was in elementary school in the early '70s, we did a lot of playing. Kindergarteners are now reading and writing. Third graders are learning about authoritarianism and totalitarianism. We are now educating children of the "me" generation. Many parents only focus on themselves and just figure that the students will learn all they need at school. I only have my students for 6 hours a day. We only have school for 180 days. Who is following up on what we teach at home? How many of these kids are actually picking up a book to read during the summer? Teachers usually spend a month at the beginning of the year reviewing the knowledge that was lost over the summer.

Parents have to start taking responsibility for their childrens' education. That can't be legislated. It is common sense, but here in Florida, that seems to be in short supply when it comes to educating children.

It should be noted that a few days after this bill was introduced, the University of Florida released the results of a study that concluded the most influencing factor of a student's performance in school is the family. Students who came from low-socioeconomic families, overall, scored lower than the other students. They had the same teachers as their counterparts but the achievement gap was too big to close.

I hope our legislature wakes up to common sense.

Posted by: bethanne1 | March 24, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

For many years, career choices for women were somewhat limited, the brighter ones often become nurses or teachers. Sure some branched into "male" dominiated careers, but the summers off to stay with the kids was often a draw for even the very bright women. Men sometimes chose k-12 education either for the love of teaching (usually science or math), coaching opportunities, or as a step into higher paying administrative positions. Now, however, career choices for women are abundant, and given such legislation as described here, why would a bright young woman (or man) choose such a disastrous couse. A college education is expensive - why sink so much money (incur debt) into a degree with such nebulous rewards.

Furthermore, tho' unethical, situations could occur in which student enrollment/placement into certain teachers' classes could be manipulated to give the impression of poor teaching as perceived by less than stellar classroom test scores. Teachers will be counting the numbers of students with ADHD and various learning disablities, noting family status (two parent, raised by granny, foster home, etc.), qualification for free or reduced lunch, and other such factors noted for impacting educational growth. A child of divorce is said to lose an average of 6 months of "learning" due to the complexities of divorce.

Teaching may soon become a loathed career choice.

Posted by: shadwell1 | March 24, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

mamoore says, "Obama worked hard for health care reform with a public option, and is hell bent on removing the public option from education?"

Well, he didn't exactly work hard for healthcare until the final stretch. But I'm starting to hope that now that he's seen the error of his ways on that issue, and has time to think about other things, he will stop this education foolishness before it goes too far.

Posted by: efavorite | March 24, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

This is very bad news for Florida. My mother taught in a very poor area of Florida for years until her death two years ago, and I taught in rural Virginia for several years. I'm no fan of unions, but this is overcorrection at its worst, and one would have to be a lunatic to decide to enter the teaching profession in that state now.

What these people need to do is take a glimpse at the socioeconomic data in Florida. Many parts of it are overwhelming black and poor, which, sadly, means that overwhelmingly, parental involvement is atrocious, and parental involvement is the leading indicator of student success.

No one wants to teach in these schools, especially not at the pay they're doling out. I believe my mother was making $26,000 or so when she passed away, and that was after 15 years teaching. That's insane.

I'm all for schools taking responsibility, but they can't be the only ones doing so when the students and their families are the truly in charge of student success, and most of them couldn't care less because they don't have any positive role models and have an extremely myopic view anyway.

Sure, you could say, this is America and anyone can pull himself up by the bootstraps, and you'd be right, but the problem is that this issue affects everyone and has turned many parts of America into depressing cesspools of poverty and crime. And that affects us all.

Posted by: justin_timberwolf | March 24, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Why on earth would any highly qualified teacher want to teach in Florida? I would take my talent and use it in a state where they respect teachers and don't treat them like an old dog that politicians can kick around to score some political points. Yet another reason why I will not spend my dollars in such a backwards hole.

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Posted by: linjian76 | March 24, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

All compensation systems have strengths and weaknesses. Using test scores will be the same. Any good compensation system should include multiple factors. No reason test scores shouldn't be a factor.

The provision about five years probation and one year contracts after that is more important. Job security is the enemy of performance.

If student performance is to be a factor in compensation, then it also makes sense to give teachers more power to discipline the little darlings. Undisciplined children and lack of parent support for discipline are what turn mediocre teachers into bad teachers. Kick the 5% of problem kids out of school and the other 95% of students will perform better.

Posted by: jfv123 | March 24, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

I can't imagine who they think is going to become a teacher in the Florida public schools under these conditions.

They really think this is the way to attract the best possible teachers for their kids?

Posted by: clarkjerome | March 24, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

"They really think this is the way to attract the best possible teachers for their kids?"

Thinking cynically here for a moment, maybe this means they've given up on the kids -- really think they can't learn, so why bother trying to educate them.

Posted by: efavorite | March 24, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I guess I'm not seeing this as the end of the world like this author seems to. Paying teachers based on test scores sounds like a good idea to me. If the tests aren't perfect then lets make them perfect or at least improve them. The current system for granting teacher raises isn't perfect either by the way. But if we're going to do this, lets make the students have some skin in the game, ie make passing the class contingent on them passing the test. I mean I remember taking the state mandated tests back in highschool and I remember how little I cared about them.

As far as not paying teachers extra for certifications and continuing education, that's fine with me too. If those certifications allow the teacher to really teach better then the added pay will show up when more kids pass the tests. If not, they're a waste of money and teacher's won't waste their time on them anymore. Most likely (for most subjects) we'll find that a teacher with a master's degree is no more effective than one with a bachelors, and the ones who are most effective are the ones that spend the extra effort to make sure all their students are getting what they should out of the class. To be honest, I don't see a problem with that.

Posted by: bill3 | March 24, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

"10 minutes to take attendance, 20 Minutes to pass your homework to you niehbor and self correct, 10 minutes to listen to the teaches views. That leaves 20 minutes to learn from the text book. "

This is one of the most ignorant comments I've heard yet. This person can come spend one day in my classroom and I bet he/she would change their opinion drastically. They didn't even spell neighbor correctly.

Posted by: cma0512 | March 24, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Sadly for our Florida students, Senate Bill 6 has passed. Now we will be hearing from the House side with their own bill that almost mirrors the senate bill. The Florida Chamber of Commerce an other business leaders are all for merit pay. While I and roughly almost 300,000 other Florida teachers are only taking half of my pay home each week (from August to May while I wait to see if my students made appropriate learning gains), we certainly won't have the financial capablities to frequent the stores and business of our communities. Who will be suffereing then?

Posted by: bethanne1 | March 24, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

bill3
What you say could make a lot of sense, but there is a big catch. Certain factors way outside of the control of the teacher play a huge part in student test scores. The students who need the most help and the best teachers are the ones who have the hardest time raising their achievement. A smart teacher would have to make a choice. Work with the kids who are most likely to provide the biggest payout under this system, or work with kids where you might do more good for the country as a whole. Weak teachers would be spared this decision.

your choice

Posted by: mamoore1 | March 24, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

"I can't imagine who they think is going to become a teacher in the Florida public schools under these conditions."

They will get inexperienced teachers who need a job and are only planning on staying long enough to get another job. But will that provide the children with the best teachers? NO!

Posted by: jlp19 | March 24, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

I'm with jfv123 on this issue. Test scores should be part of a teacher's evaluation, but clearly not the only variable. I also strongly believe the scores should be used primarily to improve instruction and NOT as a high stakes measure. Considerations such as tenure and pay raises should be determined on a "mixed measure" approach, using objective student test scores in conjunction with HONEST administrative evaluations, peer reviews, etc.

Student test scores are being incorporated into teacher evaluations in an attempt to finally provide quantitative measure(s) into the process. THE SUBJECTIVE EVALUATION SYSTEM PREDOMINATELY EMPLOYED IN MOST US DISTRICTS TODAY IS AN EMBARRASSMENT TO THE TEACHING PROFESSION and needs to be amended. Too often it consists of a previously announced visit by the principal and is often hastily done. It has also historically labeled over 98% of all public school teachers as either satisfactory or exemplary. This, of course, translates into: retain-able.

The subjective administrative evaluations of the past have also been THE determining factor in granting teachers tenure. The process is a sham, a fraud, a canard, and it has been promoted and sanctioned by (you guessed it) teacher unions everywhere. Beyond tenure, teachers are also granted pay raises primarily on two questionable variables; years of service and degrees earned, neither of which can be directly attributed to a teacher's performance.

Exactly what percent of a teacher's evaluation should be tied to student test scores should be a negotiable item in the collective bargaining process of each LEA. But student test scores and quantitative data must finally be admissible in an attempt to bring at least some degree of credibility to the process.

Posted by: phoss1 | March 24, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

I hope the Florida teachers can do something to stop this. Can they? My best wishes to them.

I was thinking of applying for a teaching job in Florida, but now I won't.

Posted by: jlp19 | March 24, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

It makes sense that the key to improving student learning is to enhance the skills and knowledge of teachers. Advanced degrees give educators the opportunity to increase their skills and therefore their capacity to improve student achievement. The proposed bill in Florida would discourage new teachers from earning advanced degrees and becoming more effective as instructors. How can having a less knowledgeable and skilled teaching force lead to higher levels of student learning?

Posted by: CommonSense411 | March 24, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

It's time for Florida voters to hold their elected officials 'ACCOUNTABLE."

Posted by: jlp19 | March 24, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

This legislation is intended to destroy public education in Florida, not imporve it. The sponsors of the bill are quite aware of its effects. The same people that introduced this, want to reintroduce a statewide voucher system that would dismantle the entire system. In addition, legislation has been introduced that would reduce retirement payments for those in the Florida Retirement System by as much as 50%. This includes not only teachers, but firefighters, police and other state workers. That's about 700,000 Florida citizens. If passed, the measures taken are supposed to be effective IMMEDIATELY and are RETROACTIVE. Teachers in Florida are disrepected throughout their careers by politicians with their own agendas and then left with nothing to show for 30+ years of dedicated service on their way out the door. I certainly will not encourage anyone to take up the profession in this state.

Posted by: jenkinskfpfhs | March 24, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Thank you justin-timberwolf! I couldnt have said that better so I wont repeat what you said. I am a 16 year veteran teacher in FL with 3 college degrees (two Masters) and I have the highest certification in our field, National Board Certification. Should this bill pass the House (it just passed the Senate), I will lose $12,000 a year just due to them not paying advanced degrees and national certification. That doesnt even include the loss of salary for pay for performance, I teach in one of those schools you described where there is literally NO parent involvement and the kids have everything stacked against them. The lawyer equivalent of teachers' national boards is the lawyer passing the Bar exam, yet we are not treated as professionals. I think its time to leave the profession. Good luck Florida while you try to find decent, high qualified teachers, we will all be leaving. And if you think this wont affect you in your state, it has already been said that if this passes FL, other states are considering similar measures. On top of what I described in regards to our pay cuts, they are going to alter our retirement, take away half of our retirement money, and also take 1% of our reduced pay and throw it into the retirement pool. That also applies to firefighters and police in FL too. Warning to the nation: Dont waste your time coming to Florida, and fight such measures in your state!

Posted by: dbme1 | March 24, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

bill3

The truth about taking extra courses once you are a teacher is that it keeps you fresh and up to date. Often, teachers can get into habits or may end up teaching a new subject or grade level. Good teachers are constantly learning. It is pretty accepted that schools provide workshops and professional development for teachers to keep the teachers up to date.

If they don't pay teachers extra for more experience and more education then someone else will, and most of the good teachers will go somewhere else.

These states that don't put money into education are irresponsible.

Posted by: celestun100 | March 24, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Someone mentioned HONEST Administrative Evaluations. Wow, do you really think that's possible? Currently, in school arenas, those teachers who "yes" the principal are rewarded with thousands of dollars additional pay for teaching an extra class or are given supplemental pay positions. The principal's pals are usually given the better classes which would contain the students most likely to show learning gains/improvement thus guaranteeing those teachers Merit Pay. News alert: The principal's pals are not necesarily the better or even the best teachers. So, let's scratch principal evaluation as a measure of who deserves merit pay.

Many students come to school hungry, abused sexually and/or physically; some are bullied and are afraid; some are on drugs; some are doing prescription drugs; some have learning disabilities; some are not English-speakers; some have no family support system (this crosses all socio-economic lines); some are troubled and traumatized by their parents' divorce; some are sexually active and all thoughts are about sex; some are habitually absent and parents excuse their absences; some have parents who show no interest in their child's education; some have parents who do not even show up for parent conferences; some never even see their parents as their schedules do not coincide; some have divorced parents who are more interested in establishing a date life rather than insuring the welfare of their child. The list can go on and on.
There are many wonderful and well-adjusted students who are focused and on task and studying to succeed -- but these are not the majority.

Until you fix all of these problems/concerns, no teacher should be paid based on merit.

If you want to improve education, I suggest that you start making the parents responsible for their own children. Let's tie their parents' salaries to their own children's performance.

Posted by: longstemred | March 24, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't Florida already know about high teacher turnover rates in the first five years of teaching?
These are only solve financial problems and they are going to ruin that state's education system.
Very sad.

Posted by: celestun100 | March 24, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Advanced degrees for teachers have NEVER been shown to be significantly correlated with teacher effectiveness. Furthermore, most school districts give salary credits whether or not the additional units actually equate to a real degree in the teacher's area of specialty. So in many districts, a teacher who takes 48 units of random courses after completing a bachelor's degree is credited with the salary for a master's degree. Some of the best teachers out there have only a bachelor's degree, and crediting teachers for a mishmash of classes or a degree from one of the schools where you get a degree just by going to school on some Saturdays is not useful.

Posted by: bk0512 | March 24, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm a college student who was going to major in Elementary Education and this decision will probably drive me away from this career choice. So many bright students with the potential to become excellent teachers are not going to enter this field because of this. They're going to ruin the education system in Florida, and are either completely oblivious or just do not care... As a parent and a hopeful teacher, I'm afraid of how this is going to affect the students.

Posted by: ashjamesgav | March 24, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

"Someone mentioned HONEST Administrative Evaluations. Wow, do you really think that's possible? Currently, in school arenas, those teachers who "yes" the principal are rewarded with thousands of dollars additional pay for teaching an extra class or are given supplemental pay positions. The principal's pals are usually given the better classes which would contain the students most likely to show learning gains/improvement thus guaranteeing those teachers Merit Pay. News alert: The principal's pals are not necesarily the better or even the best teachers. So, let's scratch principal evaluation as a measure of who deserves merit pay."

THIS IS EXACTLY HOW IT IS!

Posted by: jlp19 | March 24, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

The hidden factor of assigning the troublemakers to new teachers or a non favorite teacher is what makes it difficult to take those evaluations seriously and I think is a big factor in the turnover rate.

Florida is going to have a system like the pre-school or day-care system. People will have to pay for "good" schools and the ones who can't afford it will go to the public schools. Good luck.

Posted by: celestun100 | March 24, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

For example in some counties there is a large transient student population. Lakeland in Polk county will have close to 50% of students that will not finish the year in the same school. Others filling their places and taking FCAT and then this is the measuring stick being used on teachers? Look it up it's not a solution but a weapon against teachers and kids to pay for budget problems. Shame on them and I'm not an educator. But I have sense enough to see it for what it is.

Posted by: onesponge | March 24, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Think of this one....

Remember way back in school or college. Some of you didn't study for a test. You got an bad grade. YOU got the bad grade. YOU didn't study. YOUR family was non supportive and your school life suffered. So it was harder for you to take the test and do well....but YOU got the grade. What on earth is going on now. Why on earth would you hold the teacher responsible. Also to the smart guy who said, who cares about more certifications or degrees for teachers.... it doesn't matter? Next time go to a doctor and think that way. Teachers are not sales people with a quota.

Posted by: onesponge | March 24, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

I am sorry for being so mad... but one more thing.

My ancestors settled Florida... many of them were educators. I am not. My Mom just passed away three weeks ago. She was a fantastic educator. I got a call from a stranger that thought she was his 3rd grade teacher. He was in his 60s and relayed a story after confirming that she was his teacher of how she had payed for additional clothing and sundries for him, and encouraged him in sports. He had a tough life but she was there for him. He said he had had many teachers but that she by far helped make him the man he became. At the gathering there was a huge arrangement for her, roses and a card from him. My dad was killed and the Korean War and so I will bury her in Arlington in May next to him. She raised me alone and we certainly were not well off on her teaching salary. She excelled and I regard her as my hero. I am so glad she cannot see what has just happened to Florida. No one in power seems to care and so we are in a den of thieves. I feel sorry for them, these legislators, in a way. My mom helped and made a difference .... what have they done except budgetary slight of hand. I bet many of you had someone similar as a teacher like my mother...think on that one. Where is your voice?

Posted by: onesponge | March 24, 2010 10:41 PM | Report abuse

Here is a truthful scenario that I would like to receive a logical answer for.

Teacher pay is to be linked to performance...sounds fair and simple. I actually agree with the above statement wholeheartedly. Ok, now account for this sample of my school year so far.

Assuming statistics and test scores are the most valid means to measure a teacher's success and worth:

4 Standard, 11th grade US history courses and 2 APUSH courses. Average class size 25 as mandated the class size amendment.

Using the "subjective" scoring that I, as a professional, apparently use:

Average semester average for the first 2 Standard US history courses 76% C, 79 % C. Average FCAT reading level (the most accurate predictor of student test scoring I have seen so far in this profession 2.5/5). This means that 1/3 of my students in these two classes failed the FCAT reading and had to retake the exam in the 11th grade.

Now, the average for the second 2 Standard US history courses 68% D and 60% D. The average FCAT reading score for the class that scored a 60% is a 1.4/5. 6/21 (28%) students passed the FCAT reading during the 10th grade.

I am the same teacher in all the above classes, and I am using the same curriculum and materials in each class.

I spend a vast amount more of my time and energy trying to improve the worst two scoring classes, yet these classes fail to achieve the same rate of success as my two higher performing classes on my subjective scoring system.

Am I a poor performing teacher? If you count only my lowest performing class then yes, I am an abject failure.

Yet it is obvious that the teacher can only have so much control over what students they teach, what lives these students live, and what skills these students bring to the table.

Why are test scores, when any scoring system is subjective, paramount over a time honored way of producing high achieving and productive Americans? Did the US education system produce an uneducated populace during the 1940s-1980s, when the current ruling generations of Americans were in school?

If so, how can these Americans be qualified to make decisions that will affect future generations of Americans?


Posted by: mojo3262 | March 24, 2010 10:49 PM | Report abuse

Did you ever hear about the whipping boy. Whenever a prince did something wrong, instead of whipping him the whipping boy was whipped instead. That is what Thrasher and his group are doing to teachers. They are making teachers into whipping boys.

If this continues we need to tell all our young people to stay out of teaching to protect themselves from being made into whipping boys by politicians.

Thrasher's plan is downright cruel. Everyone knows that standardized tests have many many goofy problems and that they are not a real measure of a student's progress. This is not new knowledge. People also know that children learn at different speeds (and in different ways). Also that some children will never do well at standardized tests because it doesn't fit their learning style. This also is not new knowledge. For Thrasher to use standardized test scores as a weapon against teacher pay and employment is downright vicious.

Posted by: aby1 | March 25, 2010 2:01 AM | Report abuse

You know, I completely agree that this is a horrible idea. I'd never want to teach in Florida were this bill to become law, and I'd feel for those teachers that did. But, were it to become law, it should provide us with a lot of good data to use in studying the effects of these kinds of policies. Perhaps it will help the rest of the country see the errors in this type of thinking. The laboratories of democracy doing their work.

Posted by: TheReflectiveEducator | March 25, 2010 3:04 AM | Report abuse

It is a sad day that teachers be concerned that their income be reduced as a result of a child's FCAT scores. I am a parent of children who attend the Pinellas County Schools and I could not be happier with the teachers and the school system. I do agree that improvements should be made to the education system in general, but to base a teacher's pay on the test results of students is unfair. I am a firm believer that education starts at home, as well as diligence in discipline. Perhaps parents of students by county should be fined for students failing or receiving lower scores on these aptitude tests. Consider instead that teachers of counties who have the highest scoring students should receive a bonus. This inspires the teachers rather than threatening them. If there is a teacher who does not care about his or her students, then perhaps that individual should be looked at closely and dealt with accordingly from within the school or county specifically. Please do not chase away good teachers as a result of trying to deal with a few bad apples.

Posted by: kristiedavis | March 25, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Politicians are trying to get credit for overhauling the system and making great changes without doing the hard work of working out the details.

They leave the decision of who gets merit pay to yet to be decided tests to be created by districts without the time or resources to develop and validate these tests.

They assume one test can measure the impact of a great teacher so accurately that 50% of their salary should be based on the results.

Good teachers do not have a problem being evaluated but we do have a problem when the system for evaluation is totally ridiculous and we cannot control so many factors that will affect student's performance.

By taking away pay for advanced degrees and years of experience they take away incentive for professional development and lessen the number of teachers that will remain in the profession beyond a few years as they move on to careers where they can better provide for themselves and their families.

It shouldn't be so hard to get rid of ineffective teachers but this bill is going to make it harder to find or keep effective ones.

Karen Vazquez
First Grade Teacher

Posted by: karen47 | March 25, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Bill3 -
You said:
"As far as not paying teachers extra for certifications and continuing education, that's fine with me too. If those certifications allow the teacher to really teach better then the added pay will show up when more kids pass the tests. If not, they're a waste of money and teacher's won't waste their time on them anymore. Most likely (for most subjects) we'll find that a teacher with a master's degree is no more effective than one with a bachelors, and the ones who are most effective are the ones that spend the extra effort to make sure all their students are getting what they should out of the class. To be honest, I don't see a problem with that."

First of all, the teachers who do care and give the extra effort are the ones with advanced degrees and extra certification. They not only care about their students' education, but their own as well. If you don't think that having highly qualified teachers in the classroom will equal better student ACHIEVEMENT (not test scores, because if you knew anything about educating children, you would know they are more than a test score) then you've probably never been in a public school setting.

Just because teachers don't get paid the same amount as other people doesn't mean our profession should be held to a lower standard. We're not talking about cutting million dollar salaries down to half a million. You are talking about cutting the salary of someone - ME - who makes $35,000 a year. The same amount my best friend with no college education makes running a home daycare. You're talking about cutting salaries of parents with children at home, who coach sports and sponsor clubs and work summer jobs to make ends meet!

Do you think it's fair to ask a teacher who already bends over backwards to do any and everything to help her students be successful to lose wages over a test given on ONE day? This senate bill is asking that teacher to still care, still work long hours, still go above and beyond but do it at half the price. Now you tell me if you really believe that teacher is going to put the effort where it matters. I can tell you - her only option is to teach to the test.

Posted by: LindsayL1 | March 25, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

This is a terrible idea. Teachers already recieve a low incomes compared to that of other jobs. This bill will cause a lack in teachers, which will resort in larger classrooms, which in turn will cause less attention to students and lower grades. There are students out there that dont care about their education. Teachers should NOT be punished for something that they have no control over.

Posted by: kw1123 | March 25, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I entered the profession of teaching for several reasons. I care about America and it's future. I want to be able to inspire and ignite passion in my students' minds. I want them to become hard-working individuals. I want them to be well paid, and contribute to society. I want them to have decent morals and have manners. If they become parents, I want them to be parents who push their children to do the same. I decided to teach because I could do all of these things for a living! What a great profession.

Everyday I teach to the standards that the state of Florida demands. I follow these standards and bring creativity to my lessons. However, if I am going to be paid based on my students' test scores only, then that is only what I will teach. I have bills, I have children and I have resposibilities. I need job security. If I stay in education, I won't have it.
In my school, there are already people who are discussing leaving their current positions to teach only gifted or advanced classes. If those positions become filled, then we will look for jobs elsewhere. If the state is paying me to teach to the test, then I guess that is what I will have to do.

If my colleagues who teach History, P.E., Chorus, Art, Band, and Science are to be paid and have job security based on the students' scores as well, then I suggest they stop teaching those subjects and also teach to the test. That way, maybe our school can achieve the test scores that the state requires so that we can all be paid equally.

I understand and agree that standardized testing is important. I have no problem teaching to the Florida Sunshine State Standards. Public education does have it's problems and needs improvement. However, I don't think a lot of people really understand what is going on here; we aren't only talking about payment. The state is suggesting we eliminate our current contracts, seniority, Board Certification, job security and much more based these on tests scores.

We need a new plan.

Posted by: care8bare88 | March 25, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

As a resident of Florida and the wife of a teacher, I am outraged by this bill. If it passes, Florida counties will be required to create standardized tests for, literally, every class taught. How does that work with a subject such as art? What standard test can possibly evaluate the improvement of a student's creative thinking and artistic expression?

If teachers are going to be employed, or not, based on the results of a test, let it be a test they took themselves. As has been mentioned before, however, a test is not enough. To comprehensively evaluate a teacher's performance, perhaps some standardized subject-matter tests, a written report or two, complimentary letters from parents, evidence of community involvement, and video clips of class instruction should be used. Oh, but wait, that is what it takes to become National Board certified, and the Florida legislators have already decided certification doesn't even warrant a bonus.

My husband is an excellent teacher with a Master's Degree and National Board certification. True, that does not prove his worth in the classroom, but it is evidence of his level of commitment to the profession and his drive to make himself a better educator. He teaches Algebra II to several classes of "good" students, students who don't have many of the emotional, social, economic, or family problems that would otherwise negatively impact their test scores. Typically, they pass standardized tests with flying colors. He teaches, and they learn, a lot. However, he also teaches an Algebra I course to "average" (or below) students, whose lives are more complicated and who need extra attention and effort to learn. Teaching the "average" students is far more challenging than teaching the "good" ones. Both groups will learn and their test scores will improve, but it takes more effort to achieve even a modest improvement with the "average" kids, effort which the test results can’t capture. Rather, the scores will indicate that my husband should be punished for his extra effort, completely removing whatever intrinsic incentive he might have for teaching those who need it most.

What really makes my husband an outstanding teacher is the way he frames his lessons in real-world applications of the math. His students do more than learn the correct answers to test questions. They understand and retain the knowledge he has imparted. Math becomes interesting, and his students recognize it all around them, in everything from earthquakes to car loans. Evidence of his impact can be seen in the numerous unsolicited letters and comments of praise my husband has received over the years. When Thrasher figures out how to put that on a standardized test, I'm all for it.

Posted by: laura1023 | March 25, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I have ben a teacher, administrator,and now a college professor preparing young adults to join the teaching profession.
One of the things none of your "bloggers" has yet to mention is what I tell my students from the beginning that without the teaching profession there would be no other professions. Yes that's right, even those learned of senators sitting in their high chair of power and demagogary are writing what they think are the "rights of others", they need to stop and ask themselves: Would I be here and would I even be able to write this stuff if I didn't have or if I hadn't received a quality education? They need to thank all of us for our hard work, dedication, long hours and meager pay.Instead they want to take away our ability to transform our youth into the next generation that will one day replace them in Tallahassee.
We never entered this profession for the money or the extra time off. We entered this noblest of professions to help children to be successful. To move our society to the next level of what we may deem a cultured society.
Let's not move ourselves backwards in a reactionary way but let us progress to that next level where society honors and respects all of us in this one great teaching profession.

Posted by: frankscala | March 25, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

I voted for Obama, and I will NOT be voting for him should he run for a second term

Posted by: martinalandau | March 25, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Please do not honor me by placing my annual evaluation in the hands of the 13 year olds that I teach. I am a former scientist who decided to follow my passion to be an educator and I have taught in two quality, high performing schools in Northwest Florida, both of which are A schools. If you would like to evaluate me, please do it the same way that it was done when I worked as a chemist, come visit my lab throughout the year, review my written work, see that I am prepared each day for my job. The evaluation system in the state of Florida needs to be overhauled, but this is a joke.

Posted by: kierstenhuggins | March 25, 2010 10:00 PM | Report abuse

Our elected officials have been able to pull off one of the biggest cons since the free lunch. It started with George W. and is continuing with Pres. Obama. As an educator who is ready to retire I feel sadden by the state of our educational system and the way our politicians have used it in attempts to make themselves look good and seem to care about our children's education. There was a time when we taught a child how to solve problems, how to work not only individually but in a team setting as well. Every businessman knows these two things are important to be successful in today's work place. When we teach to a test which is basically what our educational system has come to, we are not measuring how much a student knows, nor how successful a student will be, all we are doing is creating good test takers. How many jobs exist for good test takers? I would much rather have a student who actually knows something and can function in the real world. The sad part is the students and teachers suffer while the politicians make themselves seem caring to the voting public and ultimately the country will suffer. Just one big con, such a shame. Maybe we should get rid of the con artist?

Posted by: Commonsense51 | March 26, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

As an educator, I am appalled by this proposed legislation. I am an award-winning, highly-trained high school teacher who taught in a rural school district for nearly a decade. I am expected to cover the content of a 37-chapter high school science textbook by March, at which time my students will take a state-mandated "End-of-Course" examination. No one seems to care that many of my students come into my classroom reading years behind grade level and have never conducted an experiment; it doesn't matter to the state that many of my students miss weeks of school on end because they just don't want to be there, refuse to do work in or out of the classroom, and have little/no parental support. Even the students who work hard in my class and want to do well on "the test" almost invariably "fail" it; it has nothing to do with me being a "bad" teacher or them being "bad" students. All legislation of this nature will do is cause excellent teachers to leave the profession; why work 12+ hour days, teach summer school, etc. when you are going to be penalized for factors that are simply beyond your control?

Posted by: dedicatededucator1 | March 26, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

As an educator with a doctorate and National Board Certification, I am disheartened by the leaders of this country. How can they possibly feel that my salary should be based on ONE day of student testing! My heart also fell when I saw the post by one member stating that all teachers do is take attendance, check homework, and present our views. Has this person ever spent one day in the classroom as the teacher?
Anyone who is in education realizes there is more to a teacher's day than that. I spend countless hours at work AND at home grading papers, planning lessons, and researching curriculum so that I may be the best teacher I can be. I worked in banking for 10 years before I made this my profession. I have never worked harder in my life.
People think we leave at 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I usually don't leave until 5 or 6. I come in over all my breaks to work in my classroom and prepare for my students. I work on weekends and spend my summer working ANOTHER job while planning lessons for the upcoming year school year.
I am tired of people making decisions for and about education when they have no idea what goes on in the classroom! I am tired of ignorant people making statements that I should make $15,000 a year because I do nothing more than take attendance and check homework.
I am a teacher, a mother, a father, a nurse, a guidance counselor, and a friend to the students in my classroom. They spend more time with me than their own families. I have fed my students because they come to school hungry. I have put shoes on my students feet. I have bandaged their wounds and their hearts. I deserve to be treated as a highly educated professional because I have earned it. I welcome ANYONE in my classroom to come and see what I do here with the lowest 25% of students in my school.
Shame on all of you out there that don't treat teachers with more respect. I have to wonder what kind of education you have had since you have such a terrible opinion of teachers.
As in any profession, there are people that deserve to be teachers, and there are those that don't. But punishing all the good teachers is NOT the way to change the course of education.
I wonder if the leaders of Florida are ready for the exodus of teachers, like me, because they won't be able to support themselves.

Posted by: drlamikes | March 26, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

There are a lot of comments about the pay for performance aspect of this bill. That is a huge concern, but NOT the biggest concern. Teacher certificates will be non-renewed if a teacher has more than one underperforming class within a five year period. That means her entire career is over. She can't even go to another state because she has not teaching certificate. The author of this bill, Senator Thrasher has called it "The Hammer Bill." He said it is to take a hammer and smash the teachers union in Florida for not going along with the merit pay plan of Jeb Bush a few years ago. This plan all new testing materials for both teachers and students. Who is it that writes and sells those tests? Oh, I know, one of the Bush boys. Coincidence? I'm thinking no!

Posted by: jdmark14 | March 26, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

This bill is absurd! Perhaps when my salary is reduced due to lack of learning gains and limited test scores I can propose a bill that will allow me to charge parents every time their child arrives late to school, is absent, is ill, does not complete homework, fails to follow directions. I should also charge parents for financial recompense when they skip parent teacher conferences, or fail to read to their child, take them to the doctor when they are ill, send them to school when they are ill, set a bad example etc... I shouldn't be penalized for these circumstances!!! How about kids who arrive hungry, or tired, have parents who are getting divorced, or have died, parents (and sometimes students )addicted to drugs and/or alcohol? These things impact kids in many ways, and their learning is one of the first areas to be negatively impacted! So let me charge them too.

There is too much at stake for teachers, and too many variables that are out of our control to base our salaries on student performance. As it is, our students are testing ALL YEAR LONG! We have pre-tests, post-tests, State Tests, District Tests, ESOL tests, progress testing... it never ends. Now we need to add new tests to measure our worth as teachers.

Also, we will see a significant decline in teachers seeking higher ed degrees without the financial backing. Why bother if it won't make a difference anyway? This will only lead to lower teacher performance - not better!

A very sad say for educators and students in Florida!

Posted by: loud-e | March 26, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

There so far has not been one piece of evidence to prove that pay for performance actually increases student learning long term, which makes this one big experiment (fiasco) in the making. There is however enough evidence over the years to prove it doesn't. (see link) http://www.fairtest.org/fairtest-critical-comments-us-education-department

I feel as if Obama betrayed educators. This bill is about the privatization of education and money, and nothing else.

Posted by: brabham1 | March 27, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

Reply to stephenbuss . I don't know how much you are actually making but, judging by your grammar, you shouldn't be making any money at all. Your ignorance about teaching tells me a lot about what kind of person your are.

Posted by: smarterthanlegislators | March 28, 2010 12:30 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if legislators are reading any of these posts. We have never been as united in our outrage as we are now. Teachers,school administrators, superintendents,students, parents all over the country are shocked and disheartened. Is this how our democracy is supposed to work? Some of my students cried because they're afraid of causing their teachers to lose their jobs. I also wonder what was the real agenda the legislators had when they passed this outrageous law. Is it some vicious design to eradicate public education so that the government can manipulate ignorant masses in any way they want? Well, usually, you get what you've paid for. The education in Florida is doomed.

Posted by: smarterthanlegislators | March 28, 2010 1:02 AM | Report abuse

This entire argument is a farce.

I have been teaching (BA and MA) for 17 years; and every year I can show - and have shown - improvement with regard to my students' test scores. I am not the only one doing this - I am one (like thousands of others) with a conscience. How can someone take pay and not do the job???

National Board Certification is all about video-taping and the proverbial, "Dog and Pony" show. The show (so to speak) is not an indicaor of teacher effectiveness. Look around...

If the business world determines business effectiveness based on clientele - then why not education?

Like it or not - teachers SHOULD be held responsible for their students' education or lack thereof...

Posted by: carolinewmiller | March 28, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

"Less than stellar students" - isn't that the same thing Ms. Helen Crump said about Opie's classroom when Ernest T. Bass enrolled?

So she is to blame? No, she is to be commended because she taught him SOMETHING -and you can rest assured he scored higher on the FCAT after being in her class regardless of Bill 6.

Posted by: carolinewmiller | March 28, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

As a parent of 2 children that have or are attending the Florida school system, I would have to say that something needs to be done about the needs of our children.
I am tired of my children being neglected a proper education because the school has to teach the kids to pass the FCAT so that the school can get money. My daughter had trouble with math and every time I went to talk to the teachers, they all had the same response " she will learn it next year, that they did not have time to help one child that was having difficulty and that I should invest into private tutoring ( which by the way is expensive).
My son is in classes designated to make sure he passes the FCAT, and now that FCAT testing is over for this year, he is to sit quietly read a book and go on the computer to take a test, or they watch videos.
Today I went to the school because my son blew his nose in class during this quiet time and received 2 after school detentions for "BLOWING HIS NOSE", the dean informed me that he was to make NO noise and he did and that he was lucky that he did not suspend him!
This is what happens every year after FCAT's , the teachers do not have lesson plans and they are just waiting for vacations.. we would have at least 2 or 3 parent meetings to let us know what our child needs to do to pass the FCAT's and how important they are to the school, and after the FCAT's we hardly hear from the teacher unless your child gets in trouble, I do not know about all kids but when you have an active teenager sitting quietly for hours can be very difficult, but they do not know how to teach unless they have a book to tell them what to do.
I feel that the teachers are paid way to much for what they are doing. To me they are not teachers they are glorified babysitters!
On another note...taking sports out of the schools, for some kids it is the only thing that keeps them interested in keeping their grades up, you must hold a "C" average to play a sport and sometimes its that little push that keeps a teenagers mind in focus.

Posted by: tricia9373 | March 29, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm currently a student teacher in Florida working to obtain my degree and certificate. My plan for as long as I have been pursuing this degree has been to stay in Florida, my home state, and contribute positively to the education system here. I graduate in May. Under this new bill, I would be treated like a child being slapped on the wrists rather than a professional with knowledge and skills.

I commend the state for recognizing that we need a better system for evaluating teachers and removing those who do not do their jobs, just as would happen in the private sector. Teachers who are ineffective should not continue to be employed. Teachers who are up to par should be rewarded. Merit pay is not a bad idea.

That said, basing a 9-year-old's passing grade and 50% of my pay on ONE test is asinine. As teachers, we are taught to use multiple methods of teaching and assessment to meet each students needs, a practice PROVEN to improve student learning gains. Those teachers who do so are recognized by parents, community members, and even politicians as the best for our students. So why do they then base their entire evaluation system on the opposite premise?

Research shows that using only one method of assessment does not accurately reflect the student's abilities. Even colleges and universities are starting to accept this idea when considering both SAT/ACT scores and GPA on entrance applications. The purpose here is behavior modification through punishment, another method psychologists and successful business owners will tell you does not produce the desired results in the long run.

I encourage parents, voters, community members, and lawmakers to continue to push for a viable system of ensuring all teachers are working to meet the needs of each student. This proposed bill is NOT it.

I am intelligent, hard-working, motivated, and committed to the education and development of every one of my students. I spend extra time getting to know their individual needs and use all the resources available to me to meet those needs and foster a positive learning environment. Earlier today, I downloaded an application for a job as a salesperson that requires only a GED and offers minimal pay and few benefits. It seemed a more stable option that teaching in my home state.

Posted by: bec2aboo | March 29, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

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