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Posted at 5:04 PM ET, 03/24/2010

Florida Senate approves disastrous teachers bill

By Valerie Strauss

The Florida Senate acted today to treat the state’s teachers as if they were employees of a private business for whom the legislators don’t care about in the slightest.

The chamber voted 21-17 to pass Senate Bill 6, which, as I wrote this morning, is a bill that seems designed to destroy the teaching profession in Florida. The Florida House will vote on it as early as Thursday. Isn’t there anybody in the state in authority who is going to stop this train wreck from happening?

The bill would:

*Require that school systems evaluate and pay teachers primarily on the basis of student test scores. Testing experts say this is an invalid assessment tool.
*Require that experience, advanced degrees or professional certification not be considered when paying teachers.
*Require that new teachers be put on probation for five years and then work on one-year contracts, which would allow any principal to easily get rid of any teacher who bothered them in any way.
*Require the creation of new annual tests for every subject that is not measured already by state assessments or other tests, such as the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate end-of-course tests.

There’s more, but that should be enough to tell you that the folks behind this either don’t care about public education or don’t understand a single thing about it.

The bill was sponsored by state Sen. John Thrasher, the new head of Florida’s Republican Party.

He got that post with the influential support of Florida’s former governor, Jeb Bush, who during his tenure leading the state, pushed through the legislature the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

The FCAT tests students in grades 3-11 every year, in math, reading, science and writing to see how much progress they've made in learning the state standards.

It was criticized for years in part for helping to turn school curriculum into a test preparation factory, complete with FCAT pep rallies to get kids excited before the test. State money was actually used for prep books, tests and special coaches. In fact, Bush’s brother, Neil Bush, co-founded a company called Ignite! Learning that created software used in Florida for FCAT test prep.

What a small world.

It’s pretty clear that this bill is intended to force teachers to accept lesser pay and benefits and a worsening of conditions in the classroom.

Florida’s teachers are going to have to make a very loud stand against it. It would be very helpful if they had the support of Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Duncan and President Obama have unfortunately supported the notion of using standardized test scores as a measure to evaluate teacher performance. This is what happens when idealogues take the notion to extremes. I hope Duncan voices his opposition to this bill.

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By Valerie Strauss  | March 24, 2010; 5:04 PM ET
Categories:  No Child Left Behind, Standardized Tests, Teachers  | Tags:  FCAT and bush, Florida Senate Bill 6, NCLB, standardized tests, teachers  
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Comments

in California, teachers who should be fired (non-performers, those guilty of severe disciplinary infractions, some suspected of child abuse, etc) are often 'assigned' to empty classrooms. Some are even paid for being at home, sometimes for years. Management should have the authority to hire, fire, promote, demote, and adjust employee pay? Well, duh.

Posted by: FlyDiesel | March 24, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

I agree. Teachers pay is higher than similar jobs in the private sector and their benefits are much are out of line. Teachers and the unions that represent them are out for themselves, rather than the students they teach!

Posted by: getoffyourbutt | March 24, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! I don't know when this disturbing trend of blaming teachers began but it's disheartening for those of us who love what we do. Never have I thought of another profession, and trust me, the benefits are NOT anything to write home about here in the Sunshine State. However, Senate Bill 6 and other damaging legislation is so demoralizing that I don't know how much more I can take. I can honestly say that this is the first time in a LONG time I've read commentary that was not anti-teacher. For our critics...teacher for a day, then judge.

I am an Obama supporter in most legislative issues, but I am discouraged by this Administration's plans to use test scores as another tool to blame America's new favorite scapegoat - those greedy, malicious, selfish teachers.

I just have to put it into context - would McCain's reform plans have been any better???

Posted by: andersonrose | March 24, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

What I would like to hear from are teachers that could tell me how they should be accountable. For the life of me I can not understand why a teacher would want a failing teacher before them because it makes their job that much more difficult, but it appears that some would rather have poor or mediocre teacher before them than take a chance on being judged themselves. In most of the private sector you are held to a standard and will loose our jobs if we do not perform at that standard. Yes there are people that somehow escape that judgement and coast on other's work, but the costs for these losses in the education system is pretty steep. I understand that there are situations that make if very difficult to perform, but teachers also need to look at why they are there and rethink staying in the job if they are not willing to bring about changes. Charity is not a reason to say, you are not helping kids if you have such a low sense of their capacity they you are sure they are going to fail.

Posted by: Brooklander | March 24, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Americans know better to enroll for careers in the Computer Sciences since all the entry level jobs are given to cheap foreign labor.

Now Americans should start to learn not to enroll in classes for education where after spending perhaps $80,000 for their college degree they will face a career of being treated as dirt.

Perhaps in a number of years we can start to import cheap foreign labor for teaching.

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

What I would like to hear from are teachers that could tell me how they should be accountable.

In most of the private sector you are held to a standard and will loose our jobs if we do not perform at that standard.

Posted by: Brooklander | March 24, 2010 7:22 PM
............................
But this is not the public sector.

Imagine if members of a police force were treated as individuals propose treating teachers.

Police officers will be held accountable if crime rates are high. Police officers assigned to high crime areas are fired or paid less if the crime rate rises.

There is no job security for the police or any guarantee that they will be treated fairly.

There is no salary differences for police officers based upon the neighborhood that they are assigned to even though there are higher physical risk in certain neighborhoods and now there is no longer the idea of job security to make up for difference.

Posted by: bsallamack | March 24, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

OMG..it takes someone from the Washington Post to support the teachers of Florida! Our MSM has ignored it. The average person on the street is clueless about it. Everyone down here hates teachers. They think we are all worthless and sleep with our students. Three of our finest teachers today said with tears in their eyes, "Why did I just take out loans to get my master's degree? It is now not worth the paper it is written on."
God Bless You! We have been thrown under the bus.

Posted by: veteranteacher1 | March 24, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

The Republicans have certainly hit a gold mine here as there are so many Americans that are miserable in their jobs that they are willing to tear down anyone who they think has it better than they do.

America has become a land of bitter losers.

Posted by: bsallamack | March 24, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Valerie,
Journalists like you give me hope, something that's a small flicker with the current rhetoric regarding education.

Democracy is not a business. Malcolm Forbes


Posted by: olas10 | March 24, 2010 8:48 PM | Report abuse

OK Florida people, You all need to listen up! Think about this... How would you
feel if the state passed a bill saying you are now going to earn half
your salary including section 8 housing, food stamps, and tax returns. OK now if your child/children happens to pass the 3rd
grade and scores a level 4 on the FCAT then we ...will give you the other
half. That's what we're talking about here. I am totally OK with bill 6 if WE ARE GOING TO ASK THE SAME OF THE PARENTS!!! Get with the
program, a teacher can only do so much. If parents aren't on board it's
a loosing battle!!! Ya'll need to get some brains.

Posted by: MIKEYO419 | March 24, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

The solution is school choice. If the students fail, parents eventually switch schools and the school closes down. Schools that educate students expand and enter new markets. This is the reality faced by small business all over America. Many larger businesses face a similar environment, while a few are bailed out by philosophical traitors and socialists(one gone, the other going soon enough).

Posted by: mbc7 | March 24, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Valerie,

I commented on your piece this morning on this same topic. Apparently, you either didn't read my comment or chose to ignore it because you're telling the same sorry tale about Florida teachers/schools you told eight hours before. Did you think my opinion on this topic was just going to go away? Disappear?

There's a reason schools are headed in this direction. The evaluation system in existence in most schools today nationwide is a joke. It has to go. It makes the entire profession look bad. The teacher knows when the principal is coming in to "evaluate" and is prepped to the gills for that one lesson. The real question with that teacher is; what will their lesson(s) be like the day after the principal observes, the week after, or ten weeks after?

Senate Bill 6 is not a bill that seems designed to destroy the teaching profession in Florida. What's wrong with an evaluation that (FINALLY) includes quantitative data? Sure, there are problems with linking student test scores to teacher evaluations but there's a much larger problem with the ridiculous subjective evaluations teachers receive from their building level administrators today. They're useless and as I said this morning, they're an embarrassment to the teaching profession in this country. Beyond that, what teacher worth a dime would shy away from an honest objective evaluation of their work? Only the duds, Valerie, only the duds.

There's really only one major threat to public education in Florida today (it's not a threat either, just a major paradigm shift) and it's the Florida Virtual School. This is the wave of the future and this is what's going to reform the failing public schools in Florida and nationwide.

That's right. Distance learning. It's coming to a school district near you - SOON.

Posted by: phoss1 | March 24, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

I am a Florida elementary school teacher. I hold and MBA and worked in the financial field for a few years until I got disenchanted with it and found my way into teaching, which I love because of the meaningful impact I have on the world and the hands on nature of teaching. I totally understand the need to hold teachers accountable. With thousands of teachers in the classrooms common sense dictates that some of them are bound to be bad teachers. I don't know that we could ever fill so many positions with top notch teachers, but we should try. And bad teachers should be fired. The problem is how to define a bad teacher, and standardized test is not the way to do it. Few people realize that teaching is very unlike a factory, we don't work with a standardized set of raw materials, we work with children. For the worker of a motor factory one chassis should be the same as the next and the materials given to him are the same each time. We work with children, happy, sad, bright, problematic, inspiring, disabled, stable, unstable, friendly, disturbed, and all lovely children. We will never be able to make two end products alike, yet we are held accountable if all our students don't meet the "standard". Obama is moving toward a progress made kind of measure which makes much more sense, but even that would not be perfect, because there are some children with such difficulties that they can't even make that much progress, but those are few. What is the solution? I don't have one. I think administrators should be able to walk into a teacher's classroom any time they want to and make "surprise" evaluations whenever they see fit. They should make more than three during the year and based on that they should have the power to put a teacher on line to be fired. As it is now, and should continue, they should give the teacher another year to prove that he or she can get better and improve the areas of concern, and if that doesn't happen, then fire them. That would be a much more accurate measure of good vs. bad teaching, the teaching itself, not the end result as measured by a snapshot at the end of the period.

Posted by: nolivaresr | March 24, 2010 9:51 PM | Report abuse

The children will in some cases become sick and throw up. Others will panic and wet themselves. Still others will complain of nightmares and plead for reassurance from parents and teachers. But no excuses are countenanced in the Sunshine State. The state once again went ahead with its annual ritualistic destruction of 8 and 9-year-old children this past week through the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT).

Again, the State of Florida punishes the child. No adult--not a parent, not a teacher, not a principal, not a District Superintendent, not a school board member, not a Florida Commissioner of Education, not a member of the Florida Department of Education, not a legislator, not a governor--no grown person need fear any sanction for poor FCAT performance. The State of Florida has decided to punish the 9-year-old alone.

When teachers let the wolf, the FCAT, into their classrooms it emboldened the leaders of the pack. So they're back now to destroy those very teachers. State Senator John Thrasher and other allies of former Governor Jeb Bush have rolled out Senate Bill 6. It will tie the paychecks of teachers to test scores. At first the legislation will put the jobs and livelihoods of every inner city teacher and special education teacher in jeopardy but they intend in time to get to all public school teachers.

They are out to achieve the vision of a man by the name of Milton Friedman. Sixty years ago Friedman wrote, "I believe that the only way to make a major improvement in our educational system is through privatization to the point at which a substantial fraction of all educational service is rendered to individuals by private enterprises. Nothing else will destroy or even greatly weaken the power of the educational establishment--a necessary pre-condition for radical improvement in our educational system.. . .The privatization of schooling would produce a new, highly active and profitable industry. . . ."

Senate Bill 6 is intended to work the same way FCAT did with children--batter teachers into lower pay and lesser benefits and more overcrowded classrooms through fear and intimidation. Then they will snuff out what is left of public education and install their "new, highly active and profitable industry...." And they are counting on Florida's teachers to commit suicide.

That remains to be seen. The only reason an FCAT booklet has ever been distributed in a Florida classroom is because a teacher has agreed to do it. They can pass Senate Bill 6 or Senate Bill 666 and it's null and void unless teachers administer their tests.

Posted by: natturner | March 24, 2010 10:06 PM | Report abuse

As a teacher of Advanced Placement calculus in Florida with 31 years of experience and who has had thousands of students pass the AP test over the years, I am disgusted and disheartened by what is happening in this state. While this bill is receiving some media attention (mostly positive, unfortunately), there is another bill acompanying it that will cut teachers retirement in half by changing the rules of how retirement is calculated. Florida teacher salaries rank very near the bottom nationally and therefore our retirement, which is less than half of what we get paid as full time employees, is skimpy as it is.
For all of you who talk about how worthless we teachers are, I have one question. If it is such an over-paid profession, why aren't you a teacher? If it is so easy, why not make a career change today? You are more than welcome to have my job, because if this retirement bill passes, there will be a new vacancy at my school. Apply today!

Posted by: calculuslady | March 24, 2010 10:20 PM | Report abuse

I entered the teaching profession in Florida 16 years ago to make a difference in children's lives. Although I worked in commission sales previously, I learned that teaching is not a competitive field but a collaboration between professionals who care about children. By passing SB6, the legislature will create an atmosphere where your job is on the line based solely on test scores of a select group of children.
What happens when we are asked to continue the inclusion of students who have a myriad of handicaps, from learning disabillities to social and mental handicaps? Will all teachers willingly embrace these students knowing that it might cost them their jobs if the students do not do well on the test? This year I proctored the FCAT watching students sing to themselves, draw on their clothes and casually mark boxes on the test. I knew they had a highly skilled teacher whose class was comprised of at least 12 students with ADHD. Should she be penalized for her students' test scores while a teacher of highly gifted children receives additional compensation for working with children who have supportive parents? There are too many variables to judge the value of a teacher only on test scores. There must be a place for accountability on the person who is taking the test. If I fail a test, it is my own responsibility rather than the course or professor. What is happening to our society?

Posted by: alligatorcat | March 24, 2010 10:59 PM | Report abuse

I can say that between my childhood in Public education and 30 years later that of my children, things have changed for the worse.

Though both myself and children have dealt with some hideous Teachers, we also have been taught by some truly talented Teachers who frequently were disciplined by Administrators for not following the rules that are often counterproductive in teaching.

Frankly, reform in Education needs to start at the University level- If the University programs were doing a better job and providing the necessary tools to Teachers to prepare them I think that would take care of 1/4 of the battle.

Next, hit the way schools are run. More and more children get less recess, excessive punishment, more tests, and less room for Teachers to teach in a manner that benefits children. It is all about what is PC etc. I know a number of Teachers that quit teaching because they were tired of the politics or "Sorority" type atmosphere.

Then clean out the horrible Teachers. Teachers can only be as good as we Teach them to be.

Someone complained about foreigners being brought in to teach; I think this might be a great idea! I and my children all had foreign Professors in College-frequently they were the most passionate and plugged into being a great resource for learning.

Posted by: neumandiane | March 25, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse

In the guise of punishing "bad" teachers this bill will surely punish the neediest kids.

Who, among the best teachers, will volunteer to work with kids who need their skills the most at the risk of the welfare of their own family.

Perhaps this part of a simple "market" analysis was overlooked by the proponents of the bill -- but then there is always the possibility that this represents cynicism at its worst.

Posted by: Linda_Kaboolian | March 25, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Good Business Practice--If I am producing applesauce and I want THE BEST applesauce on the market, I make sure that I only have the best, sweetest apples there are. My factory workers excel at picking out all of the bad apples but if they don't they get fired.

Reality of teaching--I get which ever students I am assigned. As a teacher, I cannot say to my students on the first day, "I've looked at your test scores from last year and you are 2 grade levels below where you should be so you are not welcome in my class." I cannot say, "I've looked at your file and you are a behavior problem and I cannot have you in my class."

Those are only 2 of the variables that effect a standardize test score. Those are 2 variable I CANNOT control.

With this bill, the Florida legislature will require to me work from August to May on a salary equall to what I made 20 years ago as a beginning teacher. I'll have to wait for test scores to come back in May to get my bonus. That isn't the business model of merit pay. Someone please tell me how to get my mortgage company to work with me so that I don't loose my house. I believe that on my new salary (I do have 3 degrees including a Master's Degree) I will now qualify for food stamps and probably section 8 housing. Also, that bonus money will not go towards my retirement. You should read what the legislature wants to do to that!

Posted by: bethanne1 | March 25, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

I am quite amazed that people still resist holding teachers accountable. I work for a large charter organization and guess what! No unions and teachers can be fired at will. And we have HIGHER scores than surrounding public schools. I am sad to hear whining instead of a focus on students. I am from Florida so have sympathy but I am disgusted by the teacher's unions. Anyone else in the world can be fired for not doing their job. Why not teachers?

Posted by: lafilleverte | March 25, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

What I would like to hear from are teachers that could tell me how they should be accountable.

In most of the private sector you are held to a standard and will loose our jobs if we do not perform at that standard.

Posted by: Brooklander | March 24, 2010 7:22 PM

As a school teacher yes I agree that we should be held accountable. Accountability is the name of the game. So lets play with the same variables. I will start by listing the variables I encounter on a daily basis as a high school teacher. Then you can tell me what you do and what variables are use to hold you accountable.

1) Time a child goes to sleep.
2) If a child has breakfast or dinner the night before.
3) Vacation in the middle of the school year.
4) Amount of time in front of the tv.
5) Homework reinforcement
6) Time on the street

These are just a few variables. Not to mention that as a high school teacher I only see a child for 6% of the day and I have no control of the other 94%. So yes please tie my salaries to things that are out of my control. In fact all jobs that are funded using tax payers money should be held to the same standards. Police, Fire Fighters, Mayors, Congressmen, Senators, Governors...

Posted by: schoolteacher430 | March 25, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

lafilleverte
Teachers can be fired. It just takes a principal with cahones to do it. All teachers in FL shouldn't have to pay this awful price because administrators won't fire ineffective teachers. No one in FL has job security for life.

I don't mind being held accountalbe. We all need to be held accoutable--parents included. I currently have a student whose teacher last year tried to have him retained but administration promoted him anyway. He is barely on a 2nd grade level now and I teach 3rd grade. My pay should not be based on his test score. He gets his regular 90 minute reading block with me and on top of that another hour of intense reading intervention with another teacher instead of science and social studies every day. He still hasn't made a year's growth by any assessalbe measure.

He is only one of the 19 stories in my class. Let's hold teachers accountable, but there has to be a better way than taking half of my salary and holding it hostage.

Posted by: bethanne1 | March 25, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Did I read this right, you are looking to Arne Duncan to save the day? This legislature is playing right in to the hands OF the OBAMA/DUNCAN agenda which calls for teachers to be assessed based on test results.
This is exactly what the Obama/Duncan people want! How else will FL qualify for the Race to the Top Funds.

HEre is my advise, NOTE that when Republicans join Obama, it's a DISASTER for all. Same thing happened when Bush joined Kennedy and passed NCLB.

I would also suggest looking closely at Marc Tucker and his plan for education. I suspect this is where all of these disasterous ideas are coming from. He's the one who wants to make teachers, employees of the state. He's the one who wants to eliminate School Boards. He's the one who supports the LOSS of local control.

Now you have Republicans walking in lockstep behind a Marxist.

I do agree is anyone going to shine the light on what is going on ??

Now we have National Standards that will lead to a National test.

Kevin Jennings is on record for saying he wants his personal agenda of promoting the gay agenda in the schools. He's the school czar under Obama and FL just set up a situation where teachers will have to teach whatever the Feds. set as Standards now.

These Republicans need to be thrown out of office with the rest of the Democrats who are destroying education!

Posted by: MOMwithAbrain | March 25, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

phoss1 -virtual school is not the answer...yes let's further isolate our kids.And basing a teacher's salary on one test is just as ludicrous as judging a child's progress on one test. It has been researched ad nauseum and it doesn't work. Schools are not a business...they are not in competition as we ALL have the same goal...to turn out responsible, literate, thinking people. All children deserve a good, well funded and staffed NEIGHBORHOOD school which is where communities are built and families feel connected. My principal used to pop in all the time unannounced and that was fine by me. And I would be glad to be judged on gains testing versus one test on one day. I'll show you gains for every child, not a problem. Charter schools are not the answer as they get to hand pick who they will and won't accept and they DO NOT serve LD and ESOL students at the same rate as public schools. When you have a Charter School, you have parent buy in. Public schools have to take ALL kids no matter what. Teachers are fired quite frequently...it's another canard to trash education and teachers. I love how all these legislators list there degrees and education and somehow, mine now mean nothing. This again shows how stupid the legislators are in Floriduh.I would encourage voters to call Crist's office and voice their opposition to this awful bill.

Posted by: Live4literacy | March 25, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

I predict huge turnover in low income areas and in areas with high percentages of limited English proficient kids. Not because those kids aren't smart, but their scores will be lower as they learn English. (Learning academic English takes 3-5 years).
These Floridians are trying to shift money from low income areas to their own pocket books. It appears that they want segregation all over again. (In practice, that is what will happen. The upper class areas will have good scores and be able to retain teachers. The lower class areas will close schools and open "new" schools, but without proper oversight. Somebody stands to make money on this, I suspect "for-profit" charter schools. It certainly won't be the people of Florida in the long run, nor will it be teachers.

Posted by: celestun100 | March 25, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Virtual Schools? Yes, for some subjects that will be great.

But imagine kindergarten through sixth grade as virtual???

LOL

Posted by: celestun100 | March 25, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I teach and only make $32,000 a year. So, whoever says we have similar pay to others is obviously in the dark. I know MANY people who make as much as I do and never had to go to any school past high school. I have thousands in student loan debt that will not be forgiven unless I endanger my life to go to a high risk school in the area. No thanks.

SO, I am a bit tired of those in society who want to blame us for not raising their child right or teaching their child EVERYTHING they need to know for life. What ever happened to parent responsibility or accountability? Why should the teacher be the only one accountable for the lack of success of children?

Not only that, but when you start to hang testing over every teachers head, that testing is all they focus on. I have seen it happen in the state in which I live. The testing year is simply a test-prep year with no skills taught. The teachers have to teach how to read the questions, then how to break the questions down, then look at the multiple choice answers, think logically,,,,etc. It's all about the test. In English classes, it is no longer about reading, but rather, reading the small excerpts to pass the test. No books are read. (Sound a bit familiar...History with the banning of books) Although we are not banning books or burning books, if we can get the book out of the hands and stop the reading....hmm......

There must be some type of accountability, but standardized tests are not the answer. I feel that exit exams that are comprehensive would be the best form of testing that would ensure the child knows what they need to graduate, but it does not pigeon-hole all the teachers to merely teaching a test. Also, it would take the pressure off of the specific grade that the test is taught. The teachers in those grades are either praised or punished already. This will not change anything for the better. The only change will be the decline of education.

I am a teacher and do not believe in tenure. If you are a good teacher, you should be able to remain; if you are not a good teacher, you should be fired. Why is this a hard concept? What do the number of years matter when it comes to whether you deserve to continue at a certain school as a teacher? I can see some of the dilemma associated with this idea, but if you are not having your contract renewed for a reason other than performance, this is where you file a grievance with your local school board. This is true with ANY other profession.

Posted by: mochajo79 | March 25, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I am a teacher with fifteen years experience. In my high school I can tell you who are the good teachers and who are not. I did not have data or test scores. I observed how teachers worked, what assignments were given, and what their students' opinion of them are. One day I saw a senior doing a word find of science vocabulary words. My kindergarten son had a similar worksheet. When I asked the student about their assignment she told me that her teacher always gives them "busy work" so she can just sit at her desk and do paper work. I can understand how the general public wants to get rid of these teachers and so do I. This bill is going to punish all the good teachers out there. It is the principal's job to get rid of these teachers! They have three years to fire them before they are tenured. It is the principal's responsibility to walk in and out of classrooms on a regular basis.
I grew up in a great family and was surrounded by great people I didn't know how much heartache there was out there for children. Just read the news this week...Five week old baby put in the oven(wasn't on)because it wouldn't stop crying, the parent was high. Last year, Baby thrown out the window of a speeding car on the highway. Baby thrown out of a fifth story building. I hear stories everyday from my students and I cringe. These stories are not made up all you need to do is look at the police report in the paper. Many students are not made to attend school, smoke pot with their parents, or don't even live with a parent. Taking a test is the last priority on these students' mind. I should not be held accountable for others mistakes. My three kids have straight A's hold me accountable for that because I spend the time to reinforce what they are learning in the classroom. This Bill wants me to work three more years before I can retire and it wants to use the average of my salary to determine my retirement. I started at twenty four thousand dollars! I have won Teacher of the Year and my students have won many awards too. Why punish the good teachers in their paychecks. Once the family medical and dental insurance is deducted there is not much left. Are you going to tell me now it's my problem because I wanted a family?
Anyone with common sense can see this Bill is wrong. Try being a teacher for a week and you will know what I am writing about.

Posted by: FloridaTeacher2 | March 25, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Why stop with teachers? What about a bill that bases employment and pay for doctors, dentists, and lawyers on how they perform. Use cholesterol levels and cavities to get rid of physicians. Lawyers lose too many cases, they're out. Watch the ensuing exodus as the doctors and dentists move to more affluent areas where patients have better diets and hygiene.

Posted by: valerie14 | March 25, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Reading your article in the car on the way home to Jacksonville from the Capitol in Tallahassee, aka, Wonderland.

It's not just the teachers unions who oppose this bill--parents, school boards, and school districts oppose it too.

Setting aside the objectionable content of the bill, we simply can't afford it. It's a top-down move that will require districts to dedicate 5% of their operating budgets to the teacher "reward plan." But of course there was no appropriations component to the bill. That's another effective 5% cut, equaling about $900,000,000 statewide. This cut follows two consecutive years of public education cuts, and our districts simply cannot withstand anymore cuts in the form of unfunded mandates.

Florida has no plan in sight for what happens when the federal stimulus money evaporates next year. Welcome to Wonderland.

Posted by: julieinjax | March 25, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm a FL teacher. I haven't gotten a raise in 2 years and I'm not shielded from inflation. There are many areas where money is "wasted" in education...it doesn't need to be teacher salaries or pensions. For example, in the past few years FL has adopted new standards (curriculum). BUT our textbook contracts ran out...so we adopted new textbooks for the different subject areas. But NO textbook company writes to the FL standards yet...but we're buying them anyway. Millions wasted.

Tenure is a sore spot, not easily understood by those not in the teaching profession. There are factors we, as teachers, aren't in control of. If a crazy parent make false accusations, tried to manhandle their child's grades, or anything immoral for that matter.... without tenure a teacher can be fired. I worked in Title 1 schools for 6 years. I have been threatened several times, both physically, through notes, harrassed...at any point in time, while dealing with these stressful situations, I could have been fired without tenure. A child can get angry with you for disciplining them and make a false accusation....you're out of a job. But it's not just a job. It's a career, one that I have a masters degree in, one that is part of defining who I am as a human being. One in which I'm being treated as when I worked in a restaurant while I was in college...a dime a dozen. What teacher is going to stand up for what's right when the risk of losing your livelihood is so high???? Who is going to be willing to work in high risk areas where the majority of your 27 students are at risk for retention...so there goes your salary??

In response to the standardized test scores as an evaluation...it's NOT that teachers disagree with evaluation. It's the standardized test scores part. To base a teacher's salary for a year's work on a 60 minute test... doesn't sound fair by a long shot. Last year two of my students missed the FCAT due to deaths in the family (both grandparents). They had to make it up. They both would've done better testing in my class with the rest of their peers. Also they took these high stakes tests within a week of the wake and funeral. Should my salary be based on these two children who suffered a severe loss the week of testing? Couldn't we find a way to evaluate teachers that factor in much more than a 60 minute test?? I wear many more hats than test proctor.

And in regards to these "bad" teachers...is it fair to me that because some administrators aren't doing their job and catching these "bad" teachers before they do too much damage that I have to be punished? Will I ever have the guts to stand up for myself, for my students, for what I believe to be true and right when I have a mortgage to pay? School loans I can't afford? Thank you for this writing this article. I wish the FL media supported FL teachers like you.

Posted by: sadie1110 | March 26, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

By the way....FL is ranked 10th in quality of education. Out of 50 states, 10th isn't so bad. Definitely seems like a state that needs drastic revamping....so let's waste more money on that...

http://www.miamiherald.com/2009/08/11/1181951/floridas-education-rankings-difficult.html

Posted by: sadie1110 | March 26, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

SB6 House Bill I am not just appalled as an educator, but also as a parent, and a citizen. This legislation devalues education on a grand scale.
First, it ends pay for advanced degrees. My teachers taught me in school that if I worked hard, I could be anything I wanted to be. Anyone I ever wanted to be was a teacher. I wanted to make a difference. Despite a wretched home situation, I did study hard and became the first person in my family ever to graduate college (with a 3.8 GPA). My studying and motivation stemmed from the confidence and encouragement of these educators. I worked my way through college as a manager at McDonald's. I took a pay cut to go from McDonald's into my profession of teaching.
I teach my children to have high expectations for themselves as I have high expectations for them. I would do this with or without a standardized test. I push them to be everything they can be and to know that they are just as smart as anyone else. I challenge them to use sophisticated vocabulary words and to read any book that they can get in their grasp. I teach them to keep trying even when learning proves difficult.
I also teach them education is important. I am in my second year of my master's degree and will receive no pay increase under SB6. The legislators throw insults at the very thing they claim to value. They are saying "education doesn't matter." I have learned a lot in my master's program, but it's an expensive investment without any type of modest raise on my meager income. Under SB6, what incentive does a teacher have to continue her education?
Next, it ends teacher job security. Currently, a new teacher works 90 days and can be fired anytime during the 90 days. If all goes well, the teacher can then get an annual contract. Then the teacher must work 3 years successfully. After that she may be offered a 3 year continuing contract. Under SB6, a teacher works 5 years with no contract. Then after 5 years, she can get an annual contract. Not only is there no job security for the teacher, there's no way for a district that wants to keep an effective teacher to secure her for more than a year.
Finally, it puts further emphasis on one-size-fits all standardized tests, which in turn diminishes the quality of education by forcing teachers to focus on these tests. As a parent of a bright fifth grader, I want my child to get a well-rounded education and to experience hands-on and cooperative learning. I hope that she does thought provoking activities and has a lot of time to write and read about things that she views as compelling. I know that the more emphasis on the FCat, the less these desires for my child's education will come to fruition. Paying teachers based on one test may put a lot of pressure on the teacher to make sure she's doing all she can, but it puts a lot of stress on the children who get board and disengaged with school. Children are more than test scores, and so are teachers.

Posted by: putchildrenfirst | March 26, 2010 9:20 PM | Report abuse

This will be devastating to Education in Florida. Only a legislator with no CLUE could draft this bill. I encourage everyone who reads this article or comment to join Facebook's page "STOP SENATE BILL 6"

Posted by: BKM88 | March 26, 2010 11:52 PM | Report abuse

I'm a Florida teacher with 22 years experience and a Master's degree. I make $45K a year and have less than mediocre health insurance. Can anyone truly believe I went into this profession for the money and benefits???

I have a modest proposal for the Florida legislators who are supporting SB 6: For one week, step into the shoes of a teacher who has students who are severely learning disabled, emotionally handicapped, learning English as a new language, and gifted all placed together in the same classroom with students who have no such labels. Work for a week in a classroom where the children come from broken homes, are the victims of abuse, don't get regular meals, and are denied meaningful interaction that engages their minds. Only after you have spent a week teaching in that kind of environment should you be allowed to write legislation that affects the K-12 education system in Florida.

Posted by: ChristineinFL | March 27, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

I have been a Florida teacher for 14 years and I have absolutely no problem sith accountability. Give me a class full of Level 1 math students who attend school on a regular basis, come to class both willing and prepared to learn, complete the work they are assigned and display appropriate behavior. I GUARANTEE that they will make major academic gains. But I WILL NOT be responsible for students who never come to school, get 3 hours of sleep each night becasue they are on MySpace/Facebook until 3am, refuse to complete any of their assignments and make it their mission each day to disrupt my class. I do not have the luxury of choosing the students who attend my class. I am the parent of 2 children who do very well in school. My son is in 5th grade and has never made less than an A. Do I give credit to his teachers for this? ABSOLUTELY!!! Do I give credit to my son for this? ABSOLUTELY!!! Do I give credit to myself for this? ABSOLUTELY!!! Education is a partnership between teachers, parents and students. Teachers are only 1/3 of the formula for success but this bill is singling us out as the ONLY factor in a students success or failure. Teachers cannot and should not be financially punshed for something totally beyond their control.

Posted by: Lisa35 | March 27, 2010 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Greetings from the "DumbShines State"
Check out the level of education and examples used in one of Neil Bush's Ignite Learning Math programs. A demonstration of probabilty using, yes, rock, paper, and scissors. This is really something I want my kid to come home with at the end of the day. http://www.ignitelearning.com/curriculum/media/095_t13m02_IN03rev3.swf
But, appropriate for FL...need one ask how such RIDICULOUS bills get passed in the first place in Florida? Stupid is as stupid does.

Posted by: sikacoruptpoltikn | March 27, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Didn't Neil Bush make money off of Jeb's education plan in Florida? He had a software program or something? Someone refresh my memory. What Bush family member or friend is going to make $$ off this new round of testing?

What the public doesn't know is Fl is cutting back on certain phases of the FCAT already because of lack of $$$. So when our school districts don't have $$$ to buy toilet paper in their schools today, they need to waste more of taxpayer's money on this monstrosity?

The public should be outraged but all they can think of is the teachers that sleep with their students.

Posted by: veteranteacher1 | March 27, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Vet Teacher read post above yours. Ignite Learning has a FCAT prep program which made several millions for the Bush Brats. Read post above yours. A person really concerned about education would have donated that money back given he came into the information about the content of the FCAT early on and not in a legal manner. OR Neil should be in jail, OR, both. Why do politicians get to break the law and get away with it? Especially in Florida.
EXPOSE THESE CRIMINALS

Posted by: sikacoruptpoltikn | March 27, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

"The Bush Brats" That's priceless!

Posted by: veteranteacher1 | March 27, 2010 9:52 PM | Report abuse

I agree that bad teachers surround us here in Florida or in any state. Being a teacher in Florida myself I work with teachers who are worthless and should be gone! Education in the state of Florida is horrible. Whoever says that teachers are "overpaid" and have "great benefits" is mislead.

The problem I see is not with teachers its with parents. I cant tell you the number of emails I get daily from parents telling me that they dont know what do with there kids that are failing or acting up in class. Parents now-a-days want to be there childs best friend! There too worried about upsetting there kids.

Second, I am very hard on my students and set the bar very high in my classroom. Parents complain when I don't let my students turn in assignments 3 weeks late or retake test that the students have failed. Even if the students fails my class for the year administration will promote them to the next grade because they do not have the allocations to keep them in that grade. How is that doing justice to the student or the teacher in the next grade???? You move them up without them knowing what they need to know and now MY PAY will depend on this!

Third is funding. WHY DO YOU THINK THE SCHOOLS IN THE NORTHEASTERN STATES PERFORM SO WELL AND THE SCHOOLS IN THE SOUTH PERFORM SO POORLY????? It has to do with FUNDING!!!! Teachers are paid out the wazoo, schools are funded out the wazoo, programs are funded out the wazoo, supplies are funded ou the wazoo! This is why the northeastern states preform so well!

As a Florida teacher I am NOT worried about Senate Bill 6. I am a good teacher and have won many awards for my teaching ability. I decided last year to move from this state where education is NOT a priority and NEVER will be a priority to a state up in the northeastern part of the United States where education matter! Where students want to learn, parents support there kids, and administration supports there staff! Next year will be my last year teaching in Florida!

I suggest the good teachers in this state do the same! GET OUT!

Education HAS never and WILL never be a priority in this state! Its a state full of senior citizens that have raised their kids! They do not want there taxes going towards education!

GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT - either find a new state to teach in or a new career.

I ask any of these representatives to spend one week in the classroom! There attitude would change. At the same time though I agree that there are plently of crappy teachers in this state that need to go! THIS IS NOT THE WAY TO GET RID OF THEM THOUGH! This is only going to get rid of the good teachers like myself!

Posted by: tea3781 | March 28, 2010 8:37 AM | Report abuse

To the previous post: You said that bad teachers were around in Florida and you worked with some worthless teachers. Clearly, you don't consider yourself worthless, but I am apalled by your grammar. How is it possible to write like this? I do not necessarily disagree with the point your are making, but being a teacher myself and not a native speaker of English, I am amazed.

Posted by: smarterthanlegislators | March 28, 2010 7:04 PM | Report abuse

The proponents of this ill-conceived bill say they want to attract best professionals to teach in Florida. I don't see lines of former CEOs or politicians quitting their cushy jobs and applying for a teaching position in critical shortage areas in low-performing schools. I bet they will run for their lives within the first 15 minutes of the first class they will attempt to teach there.

Posted by: smarterthanlegislators | March 28, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

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