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Saturday, September 24, 2011

It is not the greatest time to be a teacher in Florida

From the Ledger

It is not the greatest time to be a teacher in Florida. Job eliminations, cuts to education funding, reductions in take-home pay, economically stressed students — these are among the factors that make teachers' already-tough job even tougher.

But the biggest classroom-morale buster may be the new state law that heaps additional job insecurity on teachers — those public servants on whom we rely to prepare Florida's next generation of citizens, workers and leaders.

Passed by the Legislature in the spring and signed by Gov. Rick Scott, the new law ties teacher pay and job longevity to evaluations that are largely based on student learning metrics — metrics that are ill defined, undeveloped and unproven.

Who will create these tests and how they will be paid for are questions of great concern.

One week ago, two unions filed a lawsuit against the new state law, charging that it violates collective bargaining guarantees in the state constitution.


The litigation is evidence of the Legislature's failure to get and heed adequate teacher input before making sweeping changes.

Nobody, including teachers, should be exempt from accountability. But the state measure — too glibly described as "merit pay" — does little to reward classroom excellence. Instead, it focuses on testing-intensive teacher evaluations that are problematic at best.

The law unrealistically presumes that the state will find and fund a precise way to measure a teacher's impact on students' academic achievement — accounting for differences in children's background and socioeconomic status.

Such a metric has eluded the education system for decades

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