Education students weigh whether state tenure laws will force them out of state

By Jamie Coulson |

The fear of losing a job over performance wasn’t as big a concern for Florida’s teachers in the past. But when the state eliminated tenure for public school teachers in 2011, it left many entering the field of education questioning whether they had a future teaching in Florida. Tenure is a position given to teachers that guarantees the safety of their job until they decide to leave or retire. In 2011, Florida decided to do away with tenure in favor of a system that rewards teachers for student performance on tests.

For Flagler College seniors, they were just starting college when the laws changed four years ago. Now as graduation approaches, some wonder if the changes to tenure will make a difference as they try to secure their first job.

“If I was offered a job I would most likely take it,” said Flagler College senior Mary McAteer. “Of course since I’m hoping to attend graduate school my plans would differ based on that. I think that, as new teachers fresh from graduation, the last thing on most of our minds would be the option of tenure gone, just because we simply want a job. I think that for a long term plan it would be something I highly considered when accepting a teaching position.”

As for Sally Blake, an education professor at Flagler College, she believes that her students are special, and though finding a job might be easy, keeping a job will be the harder part. She hopes all of the students at Flagler stay in the area.

“I want all of our good students to stay, face these issues and become change agents in educational environments,” she said. “New research indicates the most effective change in educational systems needs to come from teachers because “top-down” polices have limited affect on student learning. The power is in individual teachers who must advocate for the profession and become teacher leaders. Punitive actions will continue until our teachers take a more active role in policy decisions.”

Most of the state’s tenure laws focus on standardized testing, and the idea that the etter the students do, the better the teacher must be. But according to these tests have been around since the 1800s, and while people have been opposing these tests for over 20 years, they help in ranking the countries educational level.

“U.S. students slipped from 18th in the world in math in 2000 to 31st place in 2009, with a similar decline in science and no change in reading. Failures in the education system have been blamed on rising poverty levels, teacher quality, tenure policies, and increasingly on the pervasive use of standardized tests,” states the website.

Angela Schreiner, a Flagler Graduate from Spring 2015 decided to stay in Florida, not only to be closer to her family, but because she believes that she can make more of a difference helping the students she teaches in St. Johns County.

“While people living here may not realize it, St. Augustine’s … school district is the number one ranked Florida school district,” she said. “Having had experience volunteering and interning at my current school of employment in this county, I was given a job opportunity upon graduation. While the school I teach at is Title 1, serving low-income based families, I can truly say I arrive to school daily with 100 percent joy to serve as a teacher at my exact location. I would never willingly consider a different school, county or state to teach in.”

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