Florida educators hurting because of government

By Mari Pothier | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Opinion G logoFlorida’s done it again, shooting itself in the foot when it comes to public education.

The state already struggles in this department, but Gov. Rick Scott signed into law the Student Success Act that will make standardized tests like the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test the basis for teacher evaluations and pay. Also with the act, new teachers coming into the system will not be able to receive tenure.

What were you thinking?

According to Highlands Today, “Half of the teacher evaluations will be based on how their students performed in the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and other exams over a three-year period.”

The other half will be based on the assessment of administrators and factors like advanced degrees in specific subject areas, according to Fox News.

With these criteria, teachers in Florida will have to teach specifically to standardized tests. You can’t blame them, but in the end it’s the students that suffer. They will end up doing workbook after workbook of FCAT related material. And that stinks.

Also, it doesn’t make sense to judge a teacher based on a standardized test that is taken one day out of the year. It’s the equivalent of colleges and universities looking at only SAT scores in admission and disregarding the work students do throughout their entire high school careers. They wouldn’t get the full picture.

Instead, administrators should closely monitor teachers and check student progression on quarterly report cards. If administrators would conduct unannounced classroom evaluations and check teachers’ plan books it would be easy to spot who is and who isn’t doing their job.

In addition, some students are not good test takers and may excel in other ways in the classroom. But this will no longer be taken into consideration.

The SSA may also hurt schools in lower socio-economic areas. For example in Duval County School District, Jean Ribault Middle School earned an F on the FCAT in 2010, while Mandarian Middle School earned an A. According to GreatSchools.org, a website that describes itself as “the country’s leading source of information on school performance,” 71 percent of Ribault Middle School students are eligible to receive free or reduced lunch, while 15 percent of Mandarin Middle School students are eligible.

Who will teach in lower socio-economic schools now? Teachers in such schools won’t be paid as well and leave, and new teachers won’t apply. Sadly, these are the schools that need the best teachers.

So let’s not put any more stress on teachers who devote their lives to educating the future of our state and stop the SSA before it is put into effect.

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