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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

How to reverse Florida teacher unhappiness

A recent Gallup poll ranked Florida number one for having the unhappiest teachers in the United States. Juxtapose with the recent Quality Counts poll where Florida ranked 28th in education overall but very high on teacher quality. Imagine how much better we would be doing if instead of treating teachers like second class citizens we treated them like professionals.  

Step one should be to end the high stakes testing mania that has taken hold of Florida. It’s both punitive and bad policy. Most people don’t know it but a teacher’s scores don’t factor in things like poverty, behavior and absenteeism. If we want to have a test why don’t we give one on the first day of school to see what students need and then on the last to see if they got it. The test we give now only points out zip codes as those schools in the poorer ones usually do worse.

Step two should be to give teachers work protections. Right now all teachers on the merit pay scale and every teacher hired since 2011 can be fired at the end of the school year for any reason. That’s no way for people to live. The old way of doing things which saw teachers able to earn work place protections after years of good service was not broken.

Finally notice I didn’t mention pay. Teachers enter the profession knowing they will never be rich but will be rewarded through the satisfaction of helping children. That being said isn’t it a reflection on our values the fact we are ranked 49th in teacher salary? Shouldn’t teachers who take care of so many other families be able to afford to take care of their own too and shouldn’t Florida improving things for them be a pride thing?

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