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Florida Teachers on Fire over SB 6

The state legislature in Florida is preparing to vote on Senate Bill 6, which will remove incentives for teachers to achieve National Board certification, and according to the Florida Education Association,

• Require that all teachers be retained, certified and compensated based on student test scores on standardized tests -- not years of experience or degrees held.
  • Penalize school districts that even consider length of service or degrees held when determining compensation or reductions in force.
  • Order that teachers be issued probationary contracts for up to five years; then an annual contract every year after that ... eliminating due process.
  • Mandate more standardized testing for students (end of course exams for all subjects) and for teachers (additional certification requirements).
  • Exclude the salary schedule as a subject of collective bargaining. The state will decide what categories of differentiated pay will be provided for.

This may go farther than what Secretary Duncan had in mind when he issued the guidelines for Race to the Top, but thus far he has not commented on this proposal. Florida did not, however, make the final cut. The two states that won the "race" had a high degree of buy-in from their teacher unions.

The bill's sponsor, John Thrasher, wrote a letter to the editor yesterday defending the proposal. He writes:

Opponents say the current system for teacher evaluation is fine. Last year, 99.7 percent of teachers earned a "satisfactory" evaluation, yet 50 percent of our high school students, 35 percent of our middle school students and 30 percent of our elementary students didn't make a year's worth of progress in reading. That's fine?
Opponents would have you believe that the bill eliminates tenure for teachers . What it ends is the lifetime guarantee of employment after just three years in the classroom. This bill ties renewal to effective or highly effective performance, and requires a demonstration of student learning gains for at least four of the five previous years .

Since 30% to 50% of the students in Florida did not make a year's progress in Reading, I would infer that a similar proportion of the state's teachers will be deemed unsatisfactory and subject to reductions in pay, unsatisfactory evaluations and termination. No wonder they are getting active!

Florida teachers have been speaking out, and galvanizing parents as well. A visit to the Senate Majority Facebook page reveals many posts from those concerned about the proposals.

I have to wonder who they think is going to teach in these schools? Do they really believe that some sort of miracle workers are waiting in the wings to take over?

There are some weaknesses in our evaluation system, but this sort of heavy-handed approach is not going to fix them. Rather, it will polarize the situation, and reinforce the sort of oppositional behavior that destroys our ability to actually improve evaluation.

What do you think? Should we oppose proposals like Senate Bill 6? How would you like to be evaluated and compensated this way?

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