Friday, April 9, 2010

What's up with "The Experts"?

Florida is about to embark on yet another grand experiment with its state's education system. It's commonly known as Senate Bill 6 and also referred to as the "Teacher Tenure Bill".

It has passed both the Florida State Senate and State House of Representatives. Now it has been passed to the governor for his signature or veto.

I'm really shocked and disappointed that the debate surrounding this legislation has not been covered very much by the national news media. Of course I realize the big story this week has been Tiger Woods return to the Masters Golf Tournament, and we all know that celebrity news is always more newsworthy than education issues.

In a nutshell, this legislation cannot be explained in a nutshell. Supposedly it installs a merit pay system for teachers, but the "merit" pay will be based on standardized test scores as the predominant measure of a teacher's "effectiveness". But it also eliminates any kind of tenure or due process for new teachers and calls for the termination of the teaching certificate of a teacher that is deemed ineffective (based on standardized test scores) in 4 of the preceding 5 years.

Furthermore, it ignores the fact that teachers only get better as they become more experienced; the bill places them on annual contracts and prohibits recognition for years of service, advanced degrees or becoming nationally board certified.

In addition, school districts will be required to create standardized tests for courses that do not currently have them. The creation of these new tests alone will cost the Dade County School District millions of dollars for example. To add insult to injury, these costs must be absorbed by the local school districts without any new funding support from the state.

Of course educators in Florida were excluded from any discussion in the drafting of this legislation. But then why should they have been included? The federal government does not really seek the input of experienced educators who work daily "in the trenches" of our nation's classrooms.

Instead we have "experts" like Eric Hanushek at "Education Next" who maintains that "Florida legislators recognize that teacher quality is central to student outcomes. They also recognize that neither teacher experience nor graduate degrees bear any consistent relationship to student achievement. This legislation is simply putting policy where the evidence is."

Oops! It seems that Mr. Hanushek missed the report from researchers at the University of North Carolina that discovered "rookie teachers are much less effective than their more experienced colleagues". The same report goes on to say:


FRM said...

Nice summary and reflection. Good read.

Frank Miracola

Tom said...

It's always odd how so many people comment that experience doesn't matter. I guess that means that everyone should be fired from their job after two years so that someone cheaper can be hired. I'm sure a pilot or detective with two years experience is just as good as one with 25 years. I'm sure the researcher that wrote the study could be replaced by a brand new "scholar", since their experience means nothing. Whether the person is a truck driver, surgeon, teacher, or chef, there is a lot of value in the experience gained by doing the job.

Anonymous said...

Florida teachers... Are you lions or lambs? Fight, fight, fight. MI is behind you!

Alex Gomes said...

Education seems to be getting more business- and politics-oriented every year. I hear time and time again how schools would be so much better if they were run like a business or that they need to have this or that, both being unreasonable or illogical. But of everything I've heard, this really takes the cake. To advocate teacher quality while condemning experience and even education itself, and, further still, levy costs that will reduce education resources, is probably the most ludicrous thing I've heard in a while, even within politics. Education seems to be the best example of an area where organizations of broader oversight need to be more careful in their reforms, and clean up what's dirty rather than scrubbing the whole floor.