Total Pageviews

Search This Blog

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Scott and the state legislatures ideas don't add up

From Practical

Posted by Umpire

With state legislators already drafting legislation that will impact public schools, the time to discuss education reform is now, not the legislative session’s first day. For those who follow trends in education reform, much of the debate centers on increasing performance pay and ending tenure for teachers. Sadly, few people want to discuss equally important issues such as school funding and student poverty. Florida’s education reformers must be willing to discuss all of the issues affecting our schools and not just politically trendy topics that research demonstrates will do little to improve student achievement. The reality is no quick fix exists for public schools. The only way sustainable reform can take place is if all stakeholders including educators, parents, elected officials and community members take action.

Gov. Rick Scott recently named Michelle Rhee, who resigned as superintendent of the District of Columbia’s public schools before she could be fired, as his education-reform advisor. Floridians should know that Rhee publicly admitted to taping her students’ mouths shut, causing them to bleed, when she was a teacher. This alone would have caused Florida teachers to be suspended or fired. Rhee also described swallowing a bee in front of her students.

During the coming months, Floridians will hear from Scott and Rhee about merit pay. Elected politicians who maintain veto-proof control of the Legislature also want to tie teacher salaries to student learning. Teachers are more than willing to discuss raising their salaries, which remain 28th in the nation, including performance pay.

Even so, when it comes to tying teacher salaries to test scores, research has shown that teachers do not control about 60 percent of the factors that influence student learning. Achievement is impacted significantly by what occurs in the students’ lives outside of the classroom. Vanderbilt University studied 300 teachers who received an additional $15,000 in salary if they raised student test scores. After three years, the students’ test scores of teachers receiving merit pay was no different than the students of teachers who did not receive more pay.

Successful merit pay requires student performance assessments to consider a variety of measures including attendance, ongoing classroom assessments, traditional letter grades, academic portfolios, and yes, even test scores. Reformers must recognize that teachers are already doing everything they can despite severe budget cuts to increase student achievement without performance pay. Florida schools are not filled with bad teachers.

Reformers such as Rhee also talk about ending teacher tenure as a solution to public schools’ problems. Tenure provides teachers with the right to due process so they cannot be fired arbitrarily. It does not mean they have a job for life.

Teachers do not give themselves tenure. After a teacher has worked successfully for several years, administrators decide which teachers deserve this protection.

Rather than ending tenure, reform should study improving teacher evaluations. Currently, most administrators conduct quick drive-by evaluations that provide teachers with little feedback that they can use to improve. By making evaluations more transparent and objective, teachers will have the opportunity to learn better ways to increase student achievement.

If Scott, Rhee and elected officials want Florida’s schools to rise to the very top in the nation, then they cannot continue to provide funding at the very bottom of all states. Good schools cost money.

Reducing child poverty also must be a priority as research shows students who live in low socio-economic conditions suffer academically. Nearly 66 percent of Broward County’s 281 schools are considered Title I, which means a majority of the students come from low income families. Miami-Dade County has 328 Title I schools.

Education reform cannot be dictated from Tallahassee. Increasing student achievement must be based on research and best practices that have been proven to work rather than political rhetoric. If we hope to achieve long-term school improvement than teachers, parents, elected leaders and community stakeholders must be involved in the process

With respect to Rhee, Santeramo’s piece is hard-hitting. It should be. These are the facts that far too many people dismiss about someone who is turning out to be the face of reform efforts all over the county. Floridians do not realize that education policy is being driven by the most radical of reformists in Rhee, Jeb Bush and Patricia Levesque.

Little evidence of Rhee’s Baltomore teaching tenure exists aside from what she tell us. It was only three years after a short training period with Teach for America. She touts a success level of her student’s test scores that not only is unverifiable, but is too high to believe. Santeremo is also correct in pointing out that the story Rhee herself circulates about taping a child’s mouth shut would result in a firing of a Florida teacher. And yes, even one who was a union member.

Scott’s teacher assessment proposal includes a 50 percent reliance on test scores. This is right out of Rhee’s controversial IMPACT system. This system is the reason why both Rhee and her boss the mayor both lost their jobs. Rhee is disingenuous when she blames the teacher’s union for her defeat, and IMPACT is now in danger of being scrapped by the new DC mayor.

If only teacher unions were as powerful as Rhee asserts and Republicans assume. Such influence would have long ago halted the juggernaut of high stakes testing like FCAT. Politicians like Scott and Bush along with policy makers like Rhee and Levesque are ignoring the voices of parents who realize the monster that high stakes testing became. In what was intended to be a means with which to monitor student achievement became an ends of final judgements on students, teachers, administrators and schools.

They dismiss mountains of evidence and refuse to take into account the role poverty has in a child’s learning. To do so would render null and void their teacher assessment scheme.

Levesque, who has no experience in education, is portraying the Scott plan as one which provides “choice” for parents. What if parents chose not to want their children and their children’s teachers and schools judged by high stakes testing?

You can find the piece by Pat Santeramo at:

No comments:

Post a Comment