Monday, March 29, 2010

Catastrophic Education Bill Fast-Tracked in the House

Did you think that headline sounded a little hysterical? A bit exaggerated, maybe? Think again. Passage of Senate Bill 6/House Bill 7189 would have a severe and lasting impact on Florida's public school system.

Do you think schools focus too much on the FCAT already? That the curriculum spends way too much time teaching kids how to pass a multiple choice test rather than teaching them how to think? Well, if this bill passes, 50% of teachers' salaries, their job security from year to year, even renewal of their teaching certificate will be based on how their students perform on standardized tests.

If you think our schools teach to the test now...just wait and see what happens when this new system is put in place, when the financial stability of teachers' families depends on how their classes perform on the FCAT (and in high schools, on yet-to-be-developed end-of-course tests in nearly every subject).

And on top of that, the new system would make little provision for teachers who work in the lowest-performing schools. Why would any good teachers accept that assignment, basing their salary and professional futures on the performance of the highest-risk students when so many factors in those kids lives affect their scores on a single test?

In just five days nearly 4000 Floridians have signed this letter to House Speaker Larry Cretul urging him to stop SB 6/HB 7189. This quick and widespread response demonstrates what a bad idea Florida parents, teachers and voters think this bill is.

But to stop this bill, that list needs to grow longer. And fast!

Despite Speaker Cretul's statement that he would be monitoring opposition to the legislation before deciding whether to move forward, HB 7189 has now been referred to a committee that meets next Monday. That's the last stop before reaching the floor for a vote of the full House, and the Senate bill has already been passed.

This legislation is being fast-tracked, and time is short. The House returns to work on Wednesday morning, and we'll deliver the letter. Together, we need to make sure we're more than 10,000 strong by then. Let's make sure Speaker Cretul returns to work to find an outpouring of opposition he can't ignore.

Here are the steps you can take right now:
1. Sign the letter to the Speaker right now, then post it to your Facebook page and encourage others to sign too. (There's a button that makes it simple to post after you sign.)

2. Call and email the office of Speaker Larry Cretul at larry.cretul@myfloridahouse.gov and 850.488.1450 to let him know you oppose SB 6 and HB 7189.

3. Call the Chair of the Education Policy Council to express your opposition to HB 7189: Rep. Will Weatherford, (850) 488-5744. Urge him not to put the bill on the agenda for next week's meeting.

4. Email or call your state representative to express your opposition using our easy online tool.

Together, we can make a difference! Please, take action and spread the word now. There's not much time.

Thanks for joining us in building a brighter future for Florida. And stay tuned -- we'll let you know what happens on the education legislation as well as other issues moving through the legislature.
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2 comments:

Keats' said...

Hello Civic Concern-
Great blog and congrats on getting the word out about SB 6. I've seen much of the same information about the bill in all the blogs and articles I've read, but I didn't see any articles mentioning the following features of HB 7189. Here is my brief write-up:

Little Known Aspects of HB 7189

-Won't be able to attract teachers from other states because they will have the starting pay of a brand new teacher. Teachers from other states will be labeled "beginning teacher" and will get the same starting pay grade as brand new teachers. Imagine telling a 20 year veteran teacher from New York that her starting salary is $32,000! This will only exacerbate the problem of finding good teachers. Additionally, teachers from other states won't want to move here because of the other general provisions of this bill.
-Restricts the teachers who can teach reading math, science and other critical shortage areas. Must be certified in the area, and cannot even teach out of field temporarily while getting certification in an area. While this *might* be a good idea in math or science, it will make it even more difficult to have enough reading teachers. For example, a principal can no longer assign a English teacher to teach reading , even temporarily, while getting a teacher is getting the additional reading certification.
-Teacher cannot be rehired if students don't make gains in only 2 of 5 years! If, for some reason a teacher's student don't do well enough on a standardized test, the teacher cannot be rehired, no matter how good of a teacher he/she may be. We will lose some good teachers over this. This will make good teachers much less likely to teach high risk students.
-Makes it harder to get rid of bad teachers in first three years. The bill grants tenure protection to all new teachers, meaning that all new teachers may only be removed for "just cause" - which is really hard to do (gross incompetence, felonies, etc.)

-Reduced incentives for administrators. ALL administrators and non-instructional teachers will have 50% of their pay determined by others, the AVERAGE gains of the entire school! This also goes against the entire concept of incentives. What incentive does a non-instructional teacher have to do better, when his pay is affected by how well *OTHER* students do in *OTHER* classrooms do on average!

-Bill contradicts itself on National Board Certification. In one area of the bill it requires that school cannot consider National Board Certification in teacher pay, but then also leaves intact the Dale Hickam Excellent Teaching Program, which gives teachers a 10% bonus for completing National Board Certification. This bill is poorly drafted and poorly thought out.

-Schools are forbidden from financially recognizing a teacher of the year! We've heard a lot about how teachers cannot be recognized for years of service, National Board Certification or graduate degrees. Additionally, school boards are expressly forbidden from providing incentive pay to state or local teachers of the year! Talk about perverse incentives!

-Teacher retention must be based on standardized testing. If school boards have to cut back on teachers, (as many have had to do because of budget cuts) the board must base their decisions primarily on standardized tests scores. Of course, seniority is out the window, but note something even more pernicious--the school board has to ignore its own need for teachers in certain subject areas in the face of standardized test scores. For example, what if a school board has to let go of 10% of its teachers. Let's say that students in math, ESOL or reading on average make less gains per year. Well, then the school board would be forced to let go all the teachers in that critical need subject area who are performing less on standardized tests, while other subject areas have a relevant surplus of teachers. This is just plain bad policy.

Anonymous said...

The Civic Concern tool doesn;t appear to be working. I can't check the box to undicate that I wish to send a message to my particluar representative.