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 7, 2010

Huge Changes May Be in the Works For Florida Teachers....

Two new Education Related Senate Bills are advancing through the Legislature in Tallahasse, Senate Bills 4 and 6.

These bills deal extensively with how teachers are evaluated and how teachers gain professional service contract protections. The bills also call for more stringent end of course exams for students and aim for teacher pay to be set in large part based upon the achievement of individual teachers' students. The bills are an attempt to align Florida with some of the tenets of the Federal Race to the Top Education reform program, an initiative to which Florida has recently been named a finalist.

A Miami Herald article on the subject appropriately captures the essence of how these bills will be controversial.  From today's Miami Herald:

"The Senate bill essentially guts current protections for classroom teachers and establishes more stringent requirements for end-of-year exams and teacher evaluations. Starting in July 2010, all newly hired teachers in public and charter schools would be on probationary contracts for the first year, and on annual contracts after that. The sixth annual contract would be awarded only if teachers meet stiffer guidelines for evaluations and certifications.

``This isn't to punish anybody,'' said Thrasher, R-Orange Park. ``It's to make sure our classrooms have the best teachers possible.'' "

The statewide Teacher's Unions are already aligned against these bills-just as they are against President Barack Obama's Race to The Top.  There will be fights throughout the state of Florida if and when these bills are enacted.
While I personally agree with the lion's share of what is being proposed in these bills--I am concerned that more of an individual school board's authority/autonomy is being taken away.
I am also extremely concerned about the proposed  tax penalty provision contained in SB6-- particularly the language that would essentially say that a local board "violated the law" if  they fail to tie teacher pay to student performance. (see SB6 line 949, section 8 a )  I'm concerned that many boards will not have the will to overcome local teacher union opposition to this initiative.  I saw this play out first hand  when I strongly advocated for Escambia County's participation in the Merit Award Plan--the union eventually won that battle and killed the MAP locally (and statewide, eventually).
Although I am a strong supporter of Merit Pay and strong accountability--these bills have aspects that concern me greatly.  Both of these bills have some positive ideas, but there are some rough edges that need to be rounded and smoothed over, in my opinion.
Both of these bills will be the subject of board discussion at the Escambia County School Board's monthly discussion workshop this coming Thursday, March 11, 2010 at 3:00 PM in the Boardroom of the McDaniel Building downtown.  Public input and participation is welcome and encouraged.

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