Florida's terrible teachers bill a test for Duncan
The state of Florida could prove to be a big test for Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Legislators in the Sunshine State are moving with all due speed to pass legislation that would go a long way to making sure no teacher would ever want to work in Florida again.
The Republican-dominated Senate has already passed Senate Bill 6, which would require:
* School systems to evaluate and pay teachers primarily on the basis of student test scores. (Testing experts say this is a really bad idea.)
* School systems to ignore a teacher’s experience, advanced degrees or professional credentials in any evaluation or pay. (You don’t have to be a testing expert to know how really bad an idea this is.)
* School systems to put newly hired teachers on probation for five years and then give them annual contracts for the rest of their careers.
* Require the creation of more standardized tests for students, to cover subjects already not assessed.
A Florida House committee has already approved the companion version of this bill, with the same features, and the full chamber is expected to take it up this week. The governor, Charlie Crist, has said he supports the bill.
But now, just maybe, there’s a new wrinkle for the state.
Florida was a finalist in the first round of Duncan’s $4 billion “Race to the Top” sweepstakes in which states with education reform plans that subscribe to Duncan’s brand of reform -- more charter schools, more standardized testing, linking teacher pay to test scores -- can get millions of federal dollars.
Duncan announced Monday that only two of the 16 finalists were getting money in that round, Delaware and Tennessee.
Recently Florida’s education commissioner, Eric Smith, had said he thought Florida stood a good chance of winning money in the first round. The state ended up fourth in the competition. Comments from department reviewers of Florida’s proposal mentioned that one of the problems was lack of union support for its plans.
In fact, the unions that represent teachers are in full revolt over the legislature’s plans to eliminate job security.
So here’s the test for Duncan.
If, as he says, collaboration and buy-in from stakeholders matter a lot to the success of education reform, and they are important elements in any winning Race to the Top proposal, Florida is going to have to give up its plans to hit the state’s teachers over the heads with this dangerous legislation.
Because if Florida goes ahead with this legislation, and still wins Race to the Top money, Duncan is going to have a lot of explaining to do.
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| March 30, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories: Education Secretary Duncan, Race to the Top | Tags: Ed Secretary Arne Duncan, Florida, Race to the Top
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