Senate Bill 6 is Horrendous for Education in Florida

As a teacher I take great pride in providing my students with the best education I can. When creating my lessons and objectives the focus is always on what I want my students to learn. I will turn to any resource I can find that I think will help students learn and become engaged. We, as teachers, want our students to become independent life-long learners with insatiable curiosity.

Afterall, what exactly is education? What does the education process look like? There are endless debates and varying opinions but all agree the institution of education is essential for our youth and the vitality of our republic.

Education is not just transferring information from one mind to another. It is not simply training students to memorize facts, data, theories, or anything else Google can find for you. In fact, this understanding of education, in our current technological environment, is quickly becoming outdated. The goal of education today should not be about acquisition of data, but instead about interpretation of data.

In Florida, the legislature is assuring that we stay behind the curve in regards to how we educate our students. Sure, their intentions will sound good and the talking points they may embed in the media will suggest those intentions are for the good of the people of Florida, but the facts are otherwise. Teacher pay, their livelihood, will be tied to the test scores of their students. Who are we making accountable here?

This is bad for a myriad of reasons. Upfront, what exactly are we evaluating here? Student test performance? How well students can answer multiple choice questions? What if those questions are poorly written? Then we have a whole year of horrible pay for teachers as a result? Cui bono? Who will benefit from poorly written test questions – the government, the students, or the teachers? If these are too easy, the student performance sky rockets and perhaps skews things. If too hard, teachers suffer dire consequences. What about the companies that are going to produce these tests?

Of course, there is also the scrutiny that core subject teachers are already under. English, Math, and even Science have tough times in the current FCAT environment. Student performance is often not consistent from year to year and is often times not reflective of the teacher’s efforts. In fact, what if a student moves from one school to another? Which teacher will be evaluated?

If you thought segregation was a good idea, then you will be extremely happy with this bill. Why? Because this bill will only support teachers financially that get good results. Most students in affluent neighborhoods receive many advantages that kids in poorer neighborhoods don’t. So, naturally, they will perform better. Which teachers are going to get most of the money? Who is going to get paid more – the teachers in poor neighborhoods or teachers in affluent ones? You can already see where this is going. The cycle of poverty, in this country, is broken because of education and because of providing opportunities. Kids in affluent neighborhoods will continue getting those while kids in poor neighborhoods will get teachers that face tougher obstacles and will be less inclined to do so considering their colleagues in better neighborhoods get paid more, face less stress and less scrutiny.

This bill is bad for education. This bill is bad for society. Both are very much tied together. Which is why I started a Facebook Group the other day to create awareness about this bill for my colleagues and students. We need to talk about the ramifications of this bill. Even if teachers feel that this will reward them more generously, they need to be aware of the total picture. I also want to take a moment to point out another group creating awareness – Testing is Not Teaching.

If you want to read the actual bill, passed by the Senate (21-17) here is the link for it:

http://www.flsenate.gov/data/session/2010/Senate/bills/billtext/pdf/s0006.pdf

Please let others know – your friends, family, teachers, anyone. And don’t forget to contact your local legislator – this is going to the House next and if passed, will become law. Could we find better ways to make teachers accountable? Sure. But we also need to understand the purpose of education. We also need to understand that education is a privilege and a tool to help us improve our station in life. That should serve as incentive enough for students to come to class ready to work. Right now, teachers are being neutered in regards to their authority in class and this bill will only further undermine what little authority they have left. Parents and students need to step up here. Anyone who understands what this could mean will recognize the negative factors involved here. This affects every single one of us. Time to take action. Time to take a stand. Time for our voices to be heard.