Sunday, March 28, 2010

Florida State Bill 6 on Pay for Student Performance

This is the Florida Senate Bill 6 on paying teachers directly for student performance. It is as if we were the only influence in a child's education. It is as if we were the only ones responsible when we all well know that it takes a "village," a community, to form and advance children into well equipped adults.


Teachers should be compensated for teaching effectively according to how we cover the benchmarks we are assigned. Administration should assign a designated period of time in which these benchmarks should be covered and teachers need to document that they have covered these in a comprehensible manner during that allotted time depending on their demographics. Student performance then becomes a student's responsibility.

Administrators, who are also important members of our school community, should also be responsible for organizing Professional Study Group and other learning communities to ensure that teachers are supported and encouraged to work together to achieve better lesson plans and exchange of ideas. If these things are done performance will manifest itself. It is unfair of legislators to try to make teachers scapegoats of a state's education system, especially if these same state legislators refuse to fund education adequately.. Any teacher can tell you that their professional experience is closely tied to who is at the helm of their school. A head principal can make a world of a difference in how that school functions, but it is also managed by a superintendent.

I am fortunate that I work at a school where my principal is a total professional who knows how to manage the educational climate and encouraged us to raise our school grade from a D to a B, and this year we are hoping for an A. Yet some things are out of our hands. For instance, we know that well rested students do better than those that aren't and last year high schools in Orange County went to a later schedule than this year. This move was controversial and we are back to the early schedule. Are our schedules in the hands of teachers? No! Even our administrators know that these factors aren't in our hands and neither in theirs. Yet under this bill we would be penalized for something totally out of our hands. We know that school hours is just the tip of the iceberg. Financial struggles, illnesses, family home life, crime, drug use, gangs, teen pregnancy and even personality conflicts can be factors to performance. It is almost insane not to say ludicrous to demand we "make" these kids perform when we have little control over these other factors.

But this issue isn't really about Student Performance is it? It is just a ruse to cram a costing cutting agenda through the legislature with out any consideration to how unjust it is. Even The Washington Post expressed that this Bill would be a disaster for Florida teachers, students, and education in general. Good teachers would leave the field an article claims, because there is no job security. You have an illness, a personal problem, and your performance declines, you are out of there. It creates a dog eat dog work setting.

Quality of education will suffer. Why would any teacher want to invest in a graduate degree if they are not assured that they will get some compensation for their investment and be able to pay off that graduate degree? Wouldn't those with graduate degrees rather work in a state where they are compensated adequately without having to jump through hoops? You don't have to be a rocket scientist (in fact our students know better)to figure out what is going to happen. A Brain Drain. What are these people thinking in Tallahassee?

By the way, those senators that voted for Bill 6 had better remember that teachers have good memories and we might have voted them in and we can vote them out. With this legislation they just alienated and demoralized a substantial portion of their constituency. Not one teacher I have spoken to feels so super confident that this legislation hasn't in one way or another frightened them. This is not right.


Teachers don't deny that there is always room for growth and that is why we are constantly looking for ways to improve our teaching techniques, learning how to incorporate technology into our curriculum, taking continued education classes, and pursuing graduate degrees and we should be compensated. We can also see how this measure is not really about improving the quality of education in Florida, because it will ultimately backfire. If they want to cut costs, there are better ways to do it. Cutting teacher salaries by paying us on shifting sand just won't cut it. Find another way to cut costs and balance the budget.

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