31 March 2010

Florida Senate Bill #6

Yes, this is just what our schools need to improve. This Republican bill has passed the state senate and is on its way to being passed by the state house. And what would #6 do?

Well, according to a summary from WaPo's education column, The Answer Sheet, it would:
*Require that school systems evaluate and pay teachers primarily on the basis of student test scores. Testing experts say this is an invalid assessment tool.
*Require that experience, advanced degrees or professional certification not be considered when paying teachers.
*Require that new teachers be put on probation for five years and then work on one-year contracts, which would allow any principal to easily get rid of any teacher who bothered them in any way.
*Require the creation of new annual tests for every subject that is not measured already by state assessments or other tests, such as the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate end-of-course tests.
It's hard to imagine a plan that's more dedicated to testing-oriented education. It's also hard to imagine a plan worse than this. This would mean that essentially the only people who will become teachers in Florida will be people who literally cannot get anything better when they get out of college. And it also means that there will be little chance of retaining decent teachers; with sparse opportunities for reward or advancement, their time would be much better spent getting some more education or the like and getting out of teaching as quickly as possible. If #6 passes, teaching would become a great job right out of school, but every year that passes would see everyone other career-track professional get paid according to their increasing experience and credentials. Why would anyone stick with a job where you are continually (yearly!) uncertain of your future and where you have no prospects?

M.S. at the Economist's Democracy in America correctly interprets the message the bill sends:
I'd like to offer you a job in an extremely challenging and rewarding field. The pay is based almost entirely on performance metrics... We can offer you a five-year contract to start. By "contract" I mean we'll let you work for us, if things work out, but we can of course fire you at any time. And after that you'll have solid contracts! Each contract lasts one year, and we can decide to let you go at the end if you're not performing up to our standards. And by that time, you'll be earning...well, actually, you'll be paid at exactly the same rate as when you started out. We're prohibited by law from paying you more just because you've worked for us longer. If, however, you want to go get qualified in some new technical field or obtain an advanced degree, then...we can't raise your pay either. We basically just pay you a flat standardized commission depending on how well you perform on the mission.

The mission is to train 18 to 25 children to correctly fill out the answers on a series of standardized tests. You have no control over which children will be assigned to you, and unlike other commission-based workers (door-to-door salesmen, say), you will be stuck with the ones you're handed for the whole year. Average salary is $45,000 a year, but if you work your butt off and get lucky with the kids who are assigned to you, you could push it to, oh, $60,000.

If this offer doesn't sound attractive to you, it's probably because you have other career options.


  1. You obviously haven't read the bill.

  2. Yes. I looked up the bill on the Florida Senate database and linked to it, but specifically avoided reading it. Actually, I had a friend look it up and link to it, in order to make sure there was no chance I could accidentally see a clause or two. It was really hard to arrange.

    Or wait. You could make a substantive criticism of what I said, instead.

    Nah, too hard, right?