I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Florida SB 6-Could this and SBs 2 and 4 be Dali's "Thermometer of Success"?

“The thermometer of success is merely the jealousy of the malcontents.”

Salvador Dali

This quote from the late Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dali could be used to describe the current state of education reform efforts in Florida. As transformative education bills move through the legislature, (SB 2, class size reduction modification, SB4, H.S. Graduation rigor and assessment, and SB 6, Teacher assessment, compensation and tenure overhaul) some seek to derail forward progress for inane, ideological reasons—putting continued increases in student achievement at risk.

In 1999, Governor Jeb Bush’s A-Plus Plan became a reality, much to the dismay of teacher’s unions and entrenched special interests at that time. A Google search of news articles from the 1999-2001 era clearly displays the angst and gnashing of teeth the special interests and teachers unions displayed toward Bush and his reforms back then. “Education in Florida was going to be ruined” was the overriding sentiment prior to and just after enactment of A+. “The Sky was falling, the Sky was falling.” The sky did not fall, though; thankfully, most of Mr. Bush’s plans were embraced and now Florida is steadily improving every year.

In the decade since enactment of the A-plus plan—Florida education has sky-rocketed forward, to the point where our Florida schools are now ranked eighth of fifty states according to a recent report published by Education Week. An honest explanation, or at least a partial explanation, has to assign some credit to the accountability and reforms put into place by Governor Bush. These reforms, carried through by Governor Crist and executed around the state by local districts, schools, and teachers, continue to improve education in our state for our students.

At a recent press conference the Florida Education Association president said “Florida Schools have made great strides…our learning gains are the envy of other states”—yet his organization vehemently opposed Gov. Bush’s reforms of 1999— and many of Jeb Bush’s policies (along with hard work by students) helped to produce Florida’s current successes. So that’s where many rational thinkers see a striking disconnect. Unions opposed reform, yet when reforms were enacted despite union opposition and these reforms worked, unions claim credit for the resultant success? How can someone have it both ways and hope to have any credibility with the average Florida taxpayer?

Now comes 2010 and a bold new course in education is being set, led at the national level by President Barack Obama. At the state level, several very important bills are being contemplated; These three bills deal with a common sense rebalancing of class size, a common sense increase of relevance, assessment, and rigor for H.S. graduation, and a common sense prioritization on achievement and effectiveness for employee compensation--- (SB 2, SB 4, and SB 6). As one might imagine based upon recent Florida education reform history- the entrenched special interests (AKA the guardians of the status quo) are coming out of their bunkers, lining up in opposition, and threatening lawsuits. What a sad spectacle.

These same groups openly oppose President Obama’s “Race To The Top,” (RTTT) yet Florida is on the cusp of winning a part of this historic Federal RTTT grant (despite their objections) because Florida policy makers and average Florida taxpayers want educational reform.

It appears as if Floridians are tired of the same old lame and shopworn refrain from these out–of-touch with reality, bunker mentality practitioners that cry “we’re only funded 31st out of 50 states—we need more money.” For these special interest people it is all about money. But even a fifth-grader knows this--  in education it is not only about money—if this were the case, the best funded U.S. school districts would be among the highest performing, and we all know this is a fallacy (see Washington D.C., Detroit, and NY Public Schools)

Conversely, according to those who have it badly wrong on education priorities, school districts and states that do not fund lavishly should be near the bottom with respect to student achievement. Again, their assumptions prove to be incorrect. (see Florida, Utah, North Dakota, and South Dakota schools’ per pupil funding levels) It is not just about dollars spent, and the average taxpaying American knows that—but some want to keep that “we need more money” banter up until they have everyone dumbed-down enough to believe it.

Think of it this way--

Who in their right mind would ever use a “more dollars spent for same item = better quality” rationale in real life?

In real life, people (like most taxpayers who actually work hard for their money) try to find the best quality at the best price—the best value.

Who would ever watch their neighbor “A” pay $300 for groceries at store “X”-even if the same or similar items could be had by Neighbor “B” for $200 at store “Y”? Who would ever argue, in this hypothetical, that neighbor A had it right and Neighbor B needed to “fund his store to the level of Neighbor A”—it simply wouldn’t happen in real life, it does not make sense economically, and it shouldn’t happen in government spending---even for education. (Right now Florida is getting a great value for it’s educational buck)

Taxpayers are hurting and they want Florida to keep spending wisely; they want Florida to keep accountability high, and keep moving our education system forward-- recognizing there are limitations on funding levels due to this double-dip recession we appear to be approaching. The average Florida taxpayer appreciates our system living within its means just like the average Florida taxpayer has to live within his/her means.

Will SB 2, SB 4, and SB 6 be able to survive the onslaught of negativity form the special interests?

All that can be said with certainty is that, eleven years ago, Floridians may have pondered a similar question about Jeb Bush’s A+ plan.

We all know that the A+ plan passed and Education in Florida has moved forward in stunning fashion ever since.

Will the memories of A+ be factored-in when SB 2, SB4, and SB 6 eventually head to a vote?

We’ll all have to wait and see.


Anonymous said...

May I suggest you read Diane Ravitch's book, The Death and life of the Great American School System:
How testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. You may change your opinion.

Jeff Bergosh said...

I'll read it and I'd suggest that you check this link below out with an open mind:

Ravitch is right on some issues but wrong about others, most notably charters and their effectiveness/importance.

I'd also suggest Rod Paige's The War Against Hope" for you--it might change your opinion.


Thanks for the comment

Anonymous said...

unions say we need more time and money we'll fix it. well they fixed airlines industry, textiles, and auto companies stay tuned as they continue the fixes on amtrack, us post office and public schools good luck

Traci M said...

I happened to come across your blog via a search. You're basing SB6 and its need to 'reform' education on the 'success' of the A+ program? You're joking, right? Why are the schools working? If you look carefully you'll see our students aren't entering college prepared. They are entering college as test-takers. The dogs in a dog and pony show. You appear to have a comfortable life Mr. Bergosh. Your children probably have a home with lights, water, know, the necessities. I taught and still teach in an area where that isn't so. Many don't eat dinner or get food on the weekend. They come in dirty clothing. They have no beds and share a room, sometimes the living room, with several other family members. When it's time to take the FCAT they may do well if they have had a 'good' start or they may do poorly if they have had a 'poor' start at home. Ironically, you and Thrasher want to base my pay on their test scores. Scores which sometimes don't reflect how I taught them from August until March but what kind of home they come from. My husband, a life-long Republican, anti-union man who has a degree in political science, is finally starting to see the light. Sadly, I doubt you, Thrasher and the likes of all of you ever will.

Hopefully the voters will see how much damage SB6 and supporters of it like yourself will do to education. Don't worry, it won't affect your children in their affluent, upper-class school. But it may affect the children of the person who serves you at Burger King's drive-thru, washes the linens at the fine hotel you stay at or picks up your trash every week.

Anonymous said...

Mr Bergosh,
I read your background and I am guessing that you feel that a B.A. in music and a partime school board member qualifies you as an expert but, with no disrespect intended, you and Thrasher are dead wrong! I am a teacher who holds 3 degrees and I can tell you without any hesitation that teachers are NOT THE PROBLEM! Because many parents have done a very poor job in raising their children in as far a how to behave publically, the dangers of drugs and how a lack of education is "OK" you want to hold me responsible for that? I suggest we hold not only the parents accountable but the students as well. As soon as a problem students learns that MY success is tied to their performance, THEY have ALL of the power. Good teachers will leave the field in droves and what will be left are the mediocre teachers who will be fired after the first year. The school system will become a revolving door of teachers. Who do you think will suffer then?

Jeff Bergosh said...

To Traci M. and Anonymous 11:15,

I don't consider myself an expert-not by far-on education. I do have quite a bit of insight into the inner workings of a school district, due to the current position I hold and also the experiences I have had in my life both in and out of the classroom. My thing is this--something has to be dangerously amiss for the sitting democratic president to adopt essentially the republican, conservative approach to education reform. I think the current approach and the status quo must be challenged--and unlike you I do not believe this will drive teachers from the classroom. I think reforming the teaching profession, paying great teachers great salaries, and showing non-performers the door will elevate the profession overall. More importantly though, it will ensure that mediocrity and/or sub-par performance is not rewarded with guaranteed lifelong employment. I do not blame teachers--I simply want teachers who say "I can have a positive impact and change lives of students in my class" to step up and not be afraid of accountability. you can't say that you are a difference maker in one breath, and then turn around and qualify that statement by saying "except in cases where students have less than ideal home lives" Sorry-these disadvantaged students aren't going anywhere. If we are truly as great as we think we are we need to find modalities to serve these students of poverty. The big question is this, can you make a positive difference in these students' lives despite the challenges these students face? If your answer is yes then you have my full support, respect, and encouragement. If your answer is anything but yes (and please do not take this personally), perhaps you have not yet found your true calling?

Ted said...

This bill will hurt education. Fewer people will pursue teaching careers due to these harsh changes. See my full opinion here:

Jeff Bergosh said...


I read your piece and I simply disagree with your assessment of the impact this bill will have. I believe SB 6 will pass, and when it does it will position Florida as the national leader in Education reform.

Andre D'Elena said...

Mr Bergosh, if Jeb Bush's A+ program was/is so successful why the need for SB 2, 4 & 6? Your thesis seems contradictory. I'm no fan of standardized testing for teachers or students, but I understand the limitations and needs of a "factory" school system. What are the specific components of this plan, that are different from the A+ program, that the State school system is in such dire need of?

Jeff Bergosh said...


I believe what this bill will do is allow for principals and districts to actually compensate the stars on their teams. It will allow for actual objective rather than subjective assessments, and it will untie the hands of districts when it comes time to make staffing decisions and a principal wants to keep the "best" teacher---not simply the one with the most district seniority. This bill will put the needs of students first--ahead of the grown-up employees--that's perhaps the best part about this bill. But probably most importantly-this bill positions us nicely as a state to win a piece of the Race to The Top federal grant. Many reasons to like this bill--now if we can only ensure that the millage levy "penalty" provision is lined out and the costs of implementation are identified--I'll really be happy!

Anonymous said...

The person who wrote this is an idiot!!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm just curious how you'd feel if we the voters decided to base your salary and all those who support SB6 on merit pay. If I was the deciding factor on your salary I'd would genorously start you at about $1.25 an hour. Make sure you budget yourself accordingly.

Anonymous said...

How can you say that Bush's A+ program was such a success in one breath and embrace these new reforms in the other. now who's talking out of both sides? What happened to if it's not broke... or are you admitting that Bush's program is broke? I'm a bit confused. I am all in favor of rewarding superior teaching efforts and showing repeated poor performs the door. However what SB6 is proposing is not that. Afterall our salaries will be cut before we begin to be rewarded. How is that fair. Also, if I have a high acheiving class one year and have the opposite result next year, I get both reward and pushined. Last year I had an extremely bright classs I liked to say that it was all my doing but that would be a lie. Those students started the year, knowledge wise, more prepared than any group of children that I've ever taught. This year I can't say the same. While I,ve utilized the same teaching materials and techniques this year and even added some additional supplemental materials, it's all been in vain. This group simply not as bright as the group the previous year. However, I must say that their growth from the start of the year is still impressive. So now what I play this merit pay roller coaster game? One year I'm up the next year I'm down. Gee I hope my mortgage company will come along for the ride. After all I'll have no idea what my salary will be from one year to the next. Ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

I guess if SB 6 passes gone will be the days of teachers working together to achieve a common good. Learning communiities have played a major role in the success of our teachers and consequently our students. Why should I share my know how and expertise with my colleagues if it can give me an edge in the merit pay race. Bottom line is when I started out as a new teacher I was very "green" but had the best intentions. If it wasn't for my colleagues sharing their best teaching practices with me I don't think I would be the successful teacher that I am today. In the last few years it has been my turn to help the newer "weaker" teachers improve their practice. Well if SB6 passes I'm locking my door and everyone can fend for themself, and I guarantee I won't be the only teacher who responds this way. Ultimately who will suffer... the children.

ACR4NOLIBS said...

Jeff, I think you are right on target and wish we had more school board members like you throughout the State. Thank you for standing up for the children. I've often wondered why teachers need unions like auto workers in the first place. (That seems to have worked out so well for the “Big 3”) Maybe our kids should have a union of their own to protect them from the unions who only seek to defend and retain teachers, good or bad. Keep up the good work. As for the "anonymous" teacher who said she'll lock her door if SB6 passes and everyone can fend for themselves… that just reinforces my point as to why don’t the kids have a union? Hopefully once this bill becomes law, local school boards will be able to rid districts of teacher's with that kind of attitude.

Beth said...

"More importantly though, it will ensure that mediocrity and/or sub-par performance is not rewarded with guaranteed lifelong employment."

Mr. Bergosh--shame on you for this statement. As a school board member, you should know that teachers do not have guaranteed lifelong employment. A Professional Services Contract protects teachers from being fired without just cause. There is process that your school board collectively bargained with the union for removing an ineffective teacher.

And ACR4NOLIBS--the reasons for a union in education is to protect the working conditions of the employees of the school system. We can't be fired just because a principal doesn't like us. With this bill however, if a principal doesn't like a teacher, he or she can now stack that teacher with all of the low performing students in the grade level so that the teacher can't make the required learning gains and thus be fired. Fair?? NO!

ACR4NOLIBS said...

Beth, Mr. Bergosh is correct. It is next to impossible to get rid of a bad teacher with a union behind them. I do not send my children to school to learn about fairness, which is another problem altogether causing our children to enter the real world with an entitlement mentality. As a business owner, I do not fire an employee because I don’t like them, nor do I think a principal would stack the deck against a teacher for this reason. (Just not good business, and there are actually laws in place to protect against this type of discrimination) I would however terminate their employment for non performance, something that does not happen in the public schools system, or in any union shop for that matter. Actually, non performance, and unions seem to go hand in hand. Now is that fair to the kids?? NO!

PS. Does protecting the working conditions of the employees of the school system include locking the doors and letting everyone fend for themselves?

Gary Luke said...

Mr. Bergosh, I am an attorney in Clay County (Mr. Thrasher's home county as well) and a recovering industrial engineer with extensive experience in performance based pay. For the record, I am in favor of performance pay for anywhere we can implement an equitable system.

I've read SB6 and do not understand the rationale behind using standardized test scores to measure the performance of a teacher. In order to have a performance pay system that works appropriately, you have to have metrics that are measurable and not subject to unknown variables. While we can measure the test scores fairly easily, there are several unknown variables in the proposed system.

Parents have a huge impact on the education of a child. (I'm not quite sure how a conservative can say the most important factor in education is the teacher; I learned a great deal in classes with what I considered poor teachers). Economic status can have a large impact on the education of a child. Divorce can have a large impact on the education of a child. Death of a family member can have a large impact on the education of a child.
All of these factors, and many others, contribute to the outcome of the test scores and yet SB6 advocates using these scores to measure the performance of the teacher.

I agree that Florida needs to improve the educational system for our youth. I do not care if the efforts come from the legislature, the school boards, or somewhere else. We currently have 77% of our schools not meeting the standards imposed by the NCLB program and that is not acceptable.

The last time someone said Florida was on the cutting edge of education reform was when the Florida lottery money was going to be used to help fund education. Georgia was fortunate enough to learn from the lottery funding mistakes of Florida. I do not know the numbers here but I would suspect Florida has not seen the improvements promised by that measure.

To improve the system you have to work within the limits of the system. You do not make changes for the sake of making changes. Using standardized test scores of students to measure the performance of the teachers allows too many variables to enter the system. SB6, if rational, would support the theory that we can judge the performance of a professional grade camera based on the photos taken with it by an amateur photographer. It just does not make sense.

Finally, and frankly my biggest concern, this legislation appears to lead us directly to a "teach the test" mentality. True educators teach a student to learn and inquire. Teaching the test does not accomplish this goal.

I hope that you will respond, even though I am not in your district. I am hopeful that we may one day be able to develop a performance pay system for educators but I do not think SB6 is an acceptable solution. If I am wrong, we will know in a few years. If I am right, the damage is not reversible. That seems like an awfully big risk to take with these kids lives.

(please excuse the quality of the writing; typing in the little window is a bit challenging for me)

Anonymous said...

Mr Bergosh,

With all do respect,I think you should thank Mr. Gary Luke for putting this into real perspective for you and all of your readers. This is a very serious matter and just because it will in turn benefit you somehow if this bill passes(or you wouldn't be pushing it so hard) does not mean it is good for our future youth. Also you should reread the website you referenced regarding Florida schools being eighth in the nation: it reads,
"The Sunshine State would have performed better were it not for a (C-) in school finance.

School administrators have long argued that the state underfunds education.

Florida also got a (C) in a subject that measures how likely students are to go to college or enter the workforce after graduation."

Hello, a C in how likely students are to make it past high school... I dont know if a music major only requires a C to graduate and have a meaningful career but that is not the case in my major. I attended schools in your district and want to know howcome Florida has no money for it's school system even though we have such high tourism. furthermore with how much the property taxes have gone up. Don't say its because all the old people are eating up the money in Medicare and Medicaid. How is it that we can fly Mr. Christ all over the place in his jet but we have a C in getting our youth proper tools to make it to college or into the workforce. I would like you to especially answer that for this district where this problem is especially bad...? thank you.

Beyond all of that, Have you ever been a teacher? i dont recall reading that in your QUALIFICATIONS. Do you really know how all of the prior bills leading up to this one have effected our teachers and students in the last 10 years, not from your school board, turtle on a ten foot post, perspective? I dont believe you do.

I believe you are a respectable man but I have wondered about all of the aforementioned for quite some time.


Anonymous said...

The problem with this legislation (SB6) and much legislation and testing is it assumes the worst of teachers. Does this country and our legislators really believe that ALL teachers are so terrible that they deserve this intense disrespect and zero support?

Here's the truth about educational success: it's dependent on four factors, not just one. Yet, this bill holds only teachers accountable.

Students are their own primary ingredient to success in school. Some students have an easy time of it; others due to lower IQs, disabilities, developmental delays, mental or physical illnesses, home lives in turmoil, economic circumstances, lack of motivation, or other factors have more of an uphill climb.

Parents who value education and can provide a stable, safe home environment are important too. But our state scores only a C+ in these "Chance for Success" measures as noted in Education Week' Quality Counts measures.

Teachers matter. Yes, they do. But there are an awful lot of good, hard working, talented, caring teachers who have students who just don', work, try, or even begin to bother because they do not value their education, and they don't have to learn.
Social and course promotion without prerequisite skills mastered is an awfully high mountain to place in a teacher's and a student's way to success.

Finally, community matters. At the moment, our community (state) scores only a C- in Funding of education and a C+ in Transitions and Alignments.

I don't know about you, but a C isn't an A+ in my book!

Here's what I think. Go ahead. I'm a teacher. Even more grievous, I teach math. Doesn't everybody hate math and math teachers!?

Dock my pay 50% every time I teach a child who fails to achieve at a 3 or above on the FCAT.

But when you do dock my pay, dock yours 50% too. Garnish the students' parents' wages 50% as well. And if the student themselves gets an allowance, better take at least half away from them.

While we are at this "Pay for Results!" pantomime-let's just go whole hog.

From now on every doctor of an obese patient needs to be taxed 50% of their income. We all know it's not the patient's fault. If only that doctor had told the patient to follow a healthy diet, exercise daily, and watch their health-we know the patient would be trim, slim, and never, ever eat sugar or fast food through a car window again.

Don't get me started on doctors, though. Those in the field of geriatrics have an even worse success rate. Every single one of their patients eventually gets rolled out on a cart with a tag on their toe-and these doctors have a 100% failure rate for curing aging. Obviously, these professionals are terrible. Why do we pay them at all? I'm outraged!

No, it's obvious that we should allow children from age pre-K to 12th grade to determine the financial future of all adults charged with educating them.

We already recognize that children have a developmental, socio-emotional, and intellectual level that causes them to make all of the right choices all of the time without any adult interference needed.
We already allow all children from birth to drive a car, keep and use firearms, go to war, handle the family finances, vote for our politicians, and handle life with the maturity and wisdom they were automatically born with, and teachers somehow completely lose the moment they step in a classroom. Therefore, let children determine teacher pay too! I'm all for it!

Seriously, are you joking? or are you just offensive on purpose?

ACR4NOLIBS said...

I find it quite ironic that the staunch defenders of the same groups and organizations responsible for the “dumbing down” of Americas youth for the last several decades are now blaming America’s youth for the failure of the public education system. I would remind you that their parents have come through the same system. You know the one where our kids are told that they are all winners, and that they all get a trophy…just for participation. Guess what? Real life don’t work that way. It has finally caught up with us. The lazy parents who don’t want to participate in their children’s education, and would rather just give them a video game to play or just give them some more riddalin because the PC doctors created this new disease called ADD or even worse ADHD then actually be a parent…all products of the same PC nonsense that has been preached in our public schools for too long. It’s all just a cop out. We throw 4 times the money per child at educating our youth than we did over 30 years ago when the peanut farmer created a massive new bureaucracy. (Most call it the department of education) Why haven’t we received 4 times the results? At some point, we need to realize that the problem is NOT the kids…it’s the policies…it’s the adults. Let’s all grow up and maybe take responsibility for our actions. Even if we didn’t start the ball rolling, we sure have not done anything to reverse it's effect. The Heritage Foundation has put out a guide for parents to become more involved in educating their children. The Public School system should embrace it and promote it, but somehow I doubt that will ever happen. Here is a link if anyone is interested.

Anonymous said...

I've got the solution. I will continue to teach to the test, and make my students pass by whatever means necessary. That way, my students will be happy that they have passed and I will be happy to be getting paid. It's a win-win situation! (Please note my sarcasam.)

Anonymous said...

I realize that this event has stirred alot of emotions, but has anybody in Tallahassee realized the administrative costs of this bill? How many accountants will each district have to hire to figure out who gets paid what? What if I teach math (extra pay), have special education students (extra pay) that fall 2 points on the FCAT (deduction). What if my students raise their scores by 2 points, do I get 100 percent of my salary, but my neighbor only raises hers by 1 point. Does she get 75%? By the way 50% of what? If there is no salary schedule, what is the percentage based on. What about the speech teacher who serves 3 schools? What does she do? What about the school psychologist, guidance counselor, and curriculum resource teacher? What do they do? Will I earn 20% of my salary all year until the FCAT is scored, and then get a big check or will I just get that money in next year's salary? What about first year teachers? Do we hire them in at 50%? Seems like a big push to ram through a bill with not much forethought.

Anonymous said...

I know of a school that has an FCAT parade for their students - including a Marching Band! This is an incentive for their students to do well. There is another elementary school in Florida that pays its students 1 dollar for a 5 on the Florida Writes. They do this for the 5th graders the following year so the 4th grade students can watch right before they take the test. It would break your heart to know of all the vomiting that occurs during FCAT. Little 8 year olds are subjected to such pressure. They start the pressure in 2nd grade with warnings about the FCAT. And now salaries will be tied to these scores. I think there is a reason why no other state has attempted this. I'm afraid Charlie Crist will not be on the leading edge of school reform, he will simply become an embarrassment. What a sad day for students and teachers....

Jeff Bergosh said...

I read the link left by ACT4NOLIBS-what a read! I had not seen that before but it makes a lot of common sense. To all of the posters who have left comments, I thank you. This topic has really got everyone talking and thinking. Mr. Luck from Jacksonville, I read your post, I thought it was very well written and respectful-I just happen to disagree. I see this reform effort being twisted by those vehemently opposed to it, and that is what is sad. It's not about paying teachers based on how well they "teach the test"--it's about paying more to teachers who can consistently produce year over year learning gains by the students assigned to their classrooms. and the link to the test does not comprise 100% of a teacher's evaluation--there will be other factors. It will be difficult, as anonymous (3-25 9:31PM) points out--but local districts will have to find the solutions and develop the pay plans and assessment rubrics. I'm looking forward to the process and I'm looking forward to rewarding great teachers with higher pay. They deserve it!

Anonymous said...

I am one of those average Florida taxpayers who happens to be a Republican and I think these bills are educational suicide. I will vote for any politician in any party that opposes them. How about merit pay for politicians? Unemployment is 20%(real not official) and the politicians are pushing merit pay for teachers. It's the economy stupid!

Anonymous said...

You may not have the time or interest to hear from a teacher whose life you are about to change , but, maybe, you should. I am the one who truly cares about the education of our children, and I am the one who you deny a say in the matter. Please, hear me out.
Your plan to improve educational system is nothing short of a witch hunt, this time the witches are teachers. You want the education in this country to be as good as in other industrialized countries, then take a look at those countries. They don't have a teacher performance pay system, but they do have adequate compensation for their teachers, with 12-month salaries, benefits, as well as authority in the class, respect in the society, rigorous curriculum, and the right to deliver coherent instruction as opposed to teaching to the multiple-choice tests. Stop treating true American heroes -teachers -like scapegoats. You are sending a wrong message to the students and parents who should also take the responsibility for their education. Where else in the world students can vandalized school property, curse at teachers, fight in the classrooms, have food fights in the cafeteria, come to class without any intention to learn, bring weapons to school, physically attack teachers or other students, etc. without any serious consequences? Where else in the world teacher are afraid to turn their backs to the class for fear of a heavy textbook hitting their heads? Rid the schools of all the violent and disruptive students or make them respect the rules of students conduct, otherwise, they can't be in the school. Learning is not taking place when a teacher is focused on managing the discipline of 30-35 students in the classroom, half of them may be disruptive, have various learning disabilities, emotionally handicapped, etc, or simply don't want to learn.

Please read the article in the American Educator magazine, vol. 34, NO. 1, spring 2010. . The article " The Most Daring Education Reform of All" by Diana Senechal is , in fact, calling for a revolution, not a reform in education. This IS a way to go if you HONESTLY want the American children to receive quality education. What you just signed into the law is a travesty of reform, and it will only kill the public education. What a shame for the American democracy that you don't hear or don't want to listen to the people who are experts in the field - teachers, and people who will be affected by your unwise decision -students and parents. I am scared to live in the society that is going to raise a generation of ignorant people, and this is where we are heading if you don't do anything drastic now. This outrageous bill will be the last nail in the coffin of education in Florida.
We have never been as united in our outrage as we are now. Teachers,school administrators, superintendents,students, parents all over the country are shocked and disheartened. Is this how our democracy is supposed to work? Some of my students cried because they're afraid of causing their teachers to lose their jobs. I also wonder what was the real agenda the legislators had when they passed this outrageous law. Is it some vicious design to eradicate public education so that the government can manipulate ignorant masses in any way they want? Well, usually, you get what you've paid for. The education in Florida is doomed.

Jeff Bergosh said...

Anonymous 2-27 7PM

Merit pay for politicians? What is that? We as politicians work for the people, and when we step out of line we are gone. We’re fortunate to have the opportunity to serve our constituents—I look at it as an honor and a privilege.

In my election, I will be ostracized because of the stances I have taken-but that is fine with me. I’m taking my message directly to the folks in my district, starting with all of the doors I knocked on yesterday. I am the incumbent, but I’m an “outsider”. I’ve taught in a classroom, but I’ve also done a lot of other things, including starting and running numerous small businesses. I’ve lived in the real world. I’m a guy who has paid his taxes and watched those dollars be squandered by those who were out of touch with reality. I’ve watched as people who have worked for the government their entire lives “decide” it is perfectly fine to raise tax rates for property and business owners during this, the worst recession this country has ever seen. I’ve witnessed, firsthand, many decisions being made that put “grown ups” ahead of children in our school district—and I’m fed up with it, and I’m not going along with it. I put children, students, and taxpayers first. I’m proud of my record. Examples--

When our district wanted to raise tax rates on property owners in 2008—I stood up for the taxpayers and urged restraint, and was successfully able to convince the board to hold our millage rate constant instead of raising the rate. This is on the record, and it was the first time ever that the Escambia County School Board did not levy the maximum allowable by the Florida Legislature. I simply feel that our district must live within its means just as the average Florida family has to.

In 2007, the policymakers in our district thought it would be more appropriate to call “Christmas break” on our calendar “winter break”— so as not to “offend” anyone. Well, that offended me and most of my constituents so I fought back against that and won. Our calendar to this day still reflects “Christmas Break”.

When our wonderful teacher’s union said that merit pay was “divisive” and was “not fair” I pushed back—. I was able to convince my fellow board members to give the MAP a shot, and we did. We were one of only 9 districts (out of 67) in Florida that was able to overcome the tremendous opposition from unions to make that happen.

It’s not about what the special interests want that matters—it’s about what is best for kids. When budgets tightened and the first programs on the chopping block were programs for kids (art, music, pe, minor sports)— I was a rebel on the board and stood firm. I got laughed out of the room, but I said we should all take a shared wage concession in order to save programs for kids. I suggested $700K in administrative cuts and closing inefficient programs/facilities, in lieu of laying off “less senior” employees. I know that what is best for the union is not always what is best for the students and taxpayers in my district and I refuse to genuflect before the organized teacher’s union. They know that.

Finally, I’m taking great satisfaction in witnessing the sitting democratic president adopt what amounts to essentially the republican/conservative approach to education reform. This is courageous behavior-to openly defy the NEA/AFT. I think this should really stand out to everyone—I mean, as partisan as the environment is in Washington D.C. ( See recent health care debate)—for both parties to basically have the same roadmap for fixing our broken public education system nationwide should be a condition celebrated.

Like it or not, anonymous, the current vigorous reform effort underway in Florida with SB6 and HB 7189 is being driven by the vision of Barack Obama and Arne Duncan. I’ll take it a step further—Republican lawmakers in Florida are doing what Obama and Duncan have asked of states that want a part of Race to the Top.

Don’t kill the messengers.

Anonymous said...

FROM ANONYMOUS AT 7 PM. You didn't really read my letter, did you? You truly believe that "fixing teachers" will fix our broken public education? You truly believe that multiple-choice test in music will teach the kids how to play a music instrument or to appreciate music? Or multiple-choice test in mathematics will help them to become engineers or win international mathematic competition? I am a teacher from another country, taught mathematics for 13 years before coming to this country, and it is my 5th year of teaching here. In the past , when I was in the middle school, I won a national competition in math. I currently have students from my country, who just came to US, they are 2-3 years ahead of our students, at least in math. I speak three languages. I teach gifted students now, but I was in low-performing schools for three years before. It was a nightmare, but I survived. I know what I am talking about, and you don't. Like it or not, Mr. Bergosh, you are helping to ruin this country's education and, in the near future, the country itself, because, in the global economy, education is the foundation of the country's political, social and economical success. The problems in education are much deeper than you treat them. I don't know if a music major graduate has the knowledge to see it , but at least you should use common sense. That's why I suggested that you go and look how it works in other countries, because I have seen it.

High School Teacher said...

Mr. Bergosh, you are a good and honorable man for openly discussing SB 6 with your constituents, and I thank you. Please permit me to make two points:

1. Two years ago I won a considerable state-wide award from Governor Jeb Bush for being one of the top teachers in the state for student learning gains on FCAT. Last year my students' learning gains were much lower, even though I taught the same subject in the same manner with the same dedication and passion. Needless to say, no award last year! My achievement in learning gains one year, is no indicator of my students' learning gains the next if measured by a single test.

I carefully track individual student's FCAT learning gains over the years. One year the gains of a particular student go up, the next year his gains go down. A student's performance history or "character" is no indicator of learning gains, if measured by a single test.

In a single year, I have seen the best "A" students in my class drop in learning gains on FCAT, and my "F" students make the biggest gains. Classroom work is no indicator of learning gains, if based on one test.

Reward "great" teachers? No matter how great my students and I are all year, the learning gains that will show up on a single test are highly unpredictable .

2. The proposed "learning gains" are impossible to measure with the planned "end of course" exams. To measure learning gains in 11th grade World History, there must be a 10th grade World History class in order to establish a statistical base from which to measure. To measure learning gains in 10th grade Geometry, there must have been a 9th grade Geometry class, and so on. The reality is that these prior-year courses do not exist, and it is impossible to establish a base for learning gains using end of course exams. That is why no other states do it. (If you base the gains on a pre-test at the beginning of the year, all my students would do their best to get zeros so that a maximum gain would show up at the end of the year. Pre-tests will not work.)

I don't really care what you pay me. I left a career as a lawyer 28 years ago to be in the classroom. We don't do it for the money. We teach because we love our students and we love knowledge. I just don't want my already small pay check to be bouncing up and down each year, and my smiley, enthusiastic younger co-workers to be fired, based on one test, on one day, given to a bunch of little rascals....even though I put every ounce of strength I have into teaching those rascals and they are the joy of my life.

Oh, and pardon my anonymity. I toil at my job with passion and dedication, but quietly. I'm on Spring Break today. I think I'll go grab a book and prepare some more lessons for next week.

Jeff Bergosh said...

High School Teacher,

I appreciate your comments and your dedication. I'm all about rewarding great teachers--and it's not going to be based just on one FCAT. The details will be worked out over the next three years, and 50 % of the evaluation, not the whole thing, will be based on year over year learning gains produced by a teacher; extra money will be available for teachers who teach in title 1 schools or to teachers who are certified in STEM subjects. New teachers will be able to earn more, and this will hopefully dissuade many from leaving the profession within the first five years as is now so often the case. New teachers will be able to earn a comfortable living and not have to work side jobs and drive beater vehicles for the first ten years of their careers. I'd like to see every teacher-new or veteran be able to maximize their earning potential. What's so bad about that?

Anonymous said...

"New teachers will be able to earn a comfortable living and not have to work side jobs and drive beater vehicles for the first ten years of their careers. I'd like to see every teacher-new or veteran be able to maximize their earning potential. What's so bad about that?" -Jeff Bergosh

What's so bad about being "comfortable" and "driving beater vehicles"??? Let me tell you...
living in a big fancy house and driving a big fancy car is NOT what is most important in everyone's lives. I lose sleep at night knowing some of my students are cold, alone, and going without dinner/electricity/running water. How is that comfortable? I have passion, I love what I do; any teacher will tell you that we are not doing it "for the money". We do it because we want to make a difference. We love education and we love children. I already spend hundreds of dollars in my classroom, for things I choose to use but also for supplies that most people are handed in their profession. And I even teach at an "affulent" school you are very familiar with. Tell me, Mr. Bergosh, did you buy the pens you use, the copy paper, your printer ink-at your workplace? Did you buy a fan or a heater because your office is too cold in winter or too warm in summer? How about your office chair/rug/flash drives, etc....

When will we start holding parents accountable for the children they produce but do not educate? Do you know that there are children who enter school not knowing how to write their name, go to the bathroom, or even know who their mother/father is or even their parent's first name?

I could not be happier for you that you are the breadwinner, and you get to spend time with your children. But why does MY pay fall into the hands of the single mother who works nights, and leaves her children to fend for themselves? What if your pay depended on who voted and who did not vote? Not very fair, is it?

I believe there are other solutions to the education crisis than just throwing money at the problem. If you do seek re-election, how about holding a "town hall" type meeting with teachers, your constituents, and ask US what WE suggest to "fix" the education system. I would also like to put you on the spot to answer ALL questions/comments instead of you picking and choosing what to answer/comment on.

I'm sorry I missed you in the neighborhood the other day. I did see your postcard stating you put CHILDREN first; funny, I thought one had to be 18 years of age to vote....not to fear though; WE will remember you at the poll!

Jeff Bergosh said...

Anonymous 4-5 8:48pm,

I appreciate your comments and I'm certain that if we were able to talk we would find common ground and similar ideas for making the education system better. Problem is, you and I do not make the laws, that's the job of the Florida legislature. Now that the passage of HB7189 is all but a certainty (On the house calendar for special order day after tomorrow) Florida will begin a transition to a new and bold approach to education reform. This legislation puts Florida in alignment with the vision of Barack Obama and Arne Duncan's RTTT grant--and will further position Florida at the cutting edge of education reform nationwide. Will everyone be happy? No. But this legislation is strongly supported by Jeb Bush, Governor Crist, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, a large majority of the state's conservative Republicans, and a large silent sector of taxpayers that want meaningful reform in our schools.

Chris Williams, Tate HS History Teacher said...

Mr. Bergosh—I have many issues with your view of educational reform, but there is one thing in particular that really makes me swear out loud: you refer to your view as the “conservative” view. Baloney! Real conservatives support smaller government, local control, and less regulation. SB6 and President Obama’s “Race to the Top” oppose all three of those things. As far as RTTT in particular… Are you aware that—according to the US Constitution—the federal government has no legitimate role in public education? Many of the problems in education today stem from the federal government’s involvement in the process and the strings attached to its less-than-benevolent grants—shouldn’t real conservatives fight federal control of public education, not embrace it?

I am a real conservative and I don’t appreciate you or Jeb Bush or John Thrasher dragging the name through the mud. Call yourselves what you really are—big government statists. I guess that old saying about framing the debate being the most important part of winning the debate really is true…

Jeff Bergosh said...


What is conservative enough for you? Total virtual education? backpack funding and elimination of free lunch and transportation? I mean, how mercenary do you want to get?

When I say conservative approach, obviously I’m referring to that within the context of today’s nanny state environment that has been created and perpetuated by both of the major political parties. Like it or not, we are in a box of federal and state policy intrusion—you and I both know that.
It’s quite simple to say “the real conservative approach would be to blank, blank, blank, blank, and blank—that would be the REAL way to apply a conservative approach to education policy. “How dare you call yourself a conservative!”

Problem there is-- that line of thinking is simplistic and unrealistic. It’s along the lines of saying this “Here’s the way you solve the drunk-driving problem in America, do it like they do it in Hungary, first offense ten years in prison—second offense is the death penalty” or this gem “Here’s what you do to thieves, you do it like in Saudi Arabia—you cut off their left hand” Yeah, ideas like that are popular at the back yard barbeque, but are never going to be a reality within the American system unless we totally devolve into anarchy or grow the cajones like some states and refuse the federal [Fill in the blank policy] money. At nearly 10% of our Education budget—that ain’t likely to happen in Florida-- unless you want a pay decrease.

Chris, you are a history teacher so you know this--the ship called local control set sail many years ago, beginning with Jimmy Carter’s creation of the ED in 1979, and continuing as American policymakers continue to watch Education expenditures rise and American student achievement in STEM subjects compared to countries like Greece, Poland, Chile, and many of the Asian nations DECLINE. Add to this mix the untitled unspoken political correctness doctrine precluding discussion of personal responsibility, parental accountability, etc. etc.—and Shazam-you’ve got today’s heated environment. This toxic bromide of spending, political correctness, non-accountability, intransigent special interests, and public apathy has created today’s urgent need for reform. This environment spawned documents like “A Nation at Risk”. Next came the BIPARTISAN NCLB (Ted Kennedy loved Bush’s NCLB) act of 2002, and Federal education spending and influence has increased dramatically ever since.

Bottom line-if I was like the DiCaprio character in Titanic and I was “the king of the world”-yeah, under that circumstance I could pull out my real conservative education policy. Problem with that is, the current system would be gone and we would return to an EDUCATION system that lived within it’s means and did not attempt to do more than just educate.

But I’m not the king of the world-so I stand by my statement that (under the existing American political environment) Barack Obama and Arne Duncan have essentially adopted the conservative approach (a la Jeb Bush, George W. Bush, and John Thrasher) to education reform—merit pay, charters, meaningful teacher evaluations with student achievement factored in, and data driven policy. That is a fact—you can wear a red shirt and scream at people like me all day long, but your real anger should be directed at BOTH of the national political parties—they are driving this train and we’re in the caboose!

Chris Williams, Tate HS History Teacher said...

Mr. Bergosh—I agree with much of what you just posted—especially in your 4th paragraph. Local control probably is a ship that has sailed and as this country continues its downward spiral, implementation of real conservative ideas in public education will become less and less likely. I understand that neither party is interested in conservative ideas for public education and that does make me angry. However…

…that doesn’t change what those ideas and beliefs are. The general conservative philosophy is less regulation, less federal involvement, more local control. Conservatives want to do away with the federal DOE, not embrace it. Conservatives don’t want politicians in Tallahassee deciding every detail of how local school districts operate. Is that philosophy likely to become a reality? Probably not. Is it out of step with what most of modern America wants? Absolutely. That still doesn’t change what the real conservative ideas are though.

Just because many of our modern so-called conservatives want increased regulation, bureaucracy, and federal meddling in public education doesn’t mean that the conservative ideas have changed—it just means that those particular politicians are not actually conservatives. I can claim to be the King of Siam, but that doesn’t make it so.

It’s sort of like if Kentucky Fried Chicken discontinued their “original recipe” chicken and began to claim that their baked chicken was actually the original recipe. It wouldn’t have the eleven original herbs and spices and it wouldn’t be fried, so there is no way it ever actually could be the real original recipe. But, if they kept stating over and over and over that it really was the original recipe, after several decades, most would eventually start calling it the original recipe. But it really isn’t!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Your congitive dissonance is strong. Totally unable to see more than one perspective on this bill.

Where I come from, management was held accountable for performance issues; the shareholders did submit detailed plans to fix anything.

Do you see anything in this bill which holds the State and County level administrators accountable ..for anything?

These people are the ones that have allowed the performance evaluation process to become a joke, not the teachers.

And, where in this bill are 'fixes' for the all the uncontrolable variables that teachers face on a daily basis?

Jeff Bergosh said...


I see your point but again I must say that relative to the current environment--conservative policy is the embrace of merit pay, charter schools, vouchers/choice, and meaningful teacher evaluations with inclusion of student achievement data.

I like your KFC analogy-it makes sense and original recipe is delicious.

But back to education..

SB6 was a bill that went too far to the right and just became a lightning rod. Even though it will not become law and has been vetoed by the Governor, I believe the silver lining is that it will stir debate in the years to come and the outcome of that debate will culminate with well thought-out legislation that will push our current system forward and eliminate the status quo in education.

While many are overjoyed that this measure failed, the reality is that without any new legislation to "challenge the status quo" in education--I do not believe that Florida will win a share of the Race to the Top grant.

That may be the largest casualty in the fight over SB6-because $700-$1Billion that Florida would have won is a tremendous amount of money.