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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida's teacher of the year urges a veto of SB 6

12

April

Allen crist

Hillsborough County's own Megan Allen, Florida teacher of the year and a finalist for national teacher of the year, has a message for Gov. Crist -- Don't approve Senate Bill 6.

In a carefully written letter, Allen (shown above getting her award from the governor) tells Crist that the legislation that sits on his desk could do much more harm than good to the state's public education system:

"When I close my eyes and think of my students and when I see their faces, I do dream about reform — about working to make the future better for them.  But this is not the way. People’s intentions may be good and their hearts may be in the right place, but are they listening to those who breathe education day in and day out?  This is too much, too quickly.  There are too many unanswered questions, too many variables."

There's some speculation that Crist might wait until Friday to announce a veto in Miami -- aka Jeb Bush's backyard. But he has yet to commit to the bill either way. And his schedule, which many teachers want to know so they can show up where he is, has yet to be announced for the week.

Still, this is the week to keep watching. Keep reading if you'd like to see Allen's full comments to the governor.

(Orlando Sentinel photo)

Dear Governor Crist,

I want to first thank you for your time in reading this letter and for your consideration on the matter of SB 6 and HB 7189.  My name is Megan Allen, and I am the 2010 Florida Teacher of the Year.  I am also a proud fourth grade teacher in Hillsborough County.  It has been my great pleasure this year to travel around Florida, learning and talking with so many wonderful educators, students, and communities around the state. 

On behalf of those educators and students that I represent and serve this year, I urge you to veto SB 6/HB 7189.  I have received so much feedback, and I have heard so many frustrations, hopes, and dreams when discussing reform.  There are teachers who are excited about reform but not done in this manner.  I have yet to meet a teacher who sees this bill as a step forward in thinking — as something positive, as something beneficial for those who the bill is all about...our students.

Teaching is not a job.  It is something so much greater.  It is a passion—it is our life, our days and nights, the air we breathe.  It is the very matter that makes up the tiniest molecule of our bodies.  We are not just teachers.  We are the ones who help our students realize their goals, who lift students to their full potential, who help our students dream and dream big.

So when we are having these discussions about reform, we are not talking about a profession, we are talking about the future of our students.  As teachers, we put our students first in every decision that we make, embracing the future of each student at the forefront of our heads. 

That is what education is about.  It is not about test scores, pencils, textbooks...it is about building the future.  And doing it correctly, with our students’ best interests at the heart of every decision.  When I close my eyes and think of my students and when I see their faces, I do dream about reform — about working to make the future better for them.  But this is not the way. People’s intentions may be good and their hearts may be in the right place, but are they listening to those who breathe education day in and day out?  This is too much, too quickly.  There are too many unanswered questions, too many variables.

We are learning many lessons about reform in Hillsborough County with the Gates Grant.  We are learning that it is a fluid process, not something that you can roll out in a matter of a few years. We are learning the importance of working with all stakeholders and moving to large-scale change from the ground up.  Collaboration is a key ingredient for success.  Let us learn from the amazing reform we are putting together in Hillsborough and let us craft better legislation, involving all stakeholders. 

The past few merit pay programs have left such a bitter taste in Florida’s mouth, so our next move towards reform needs to be done in a smart and correct manner, not haphazardly.  I am not afraid of performance pay...bring it on.  Some years I’ve gotten it, some years I haven’t.  But make it fair and effective...and we don’t know how to do that yet.   The data just isn’t there.  We need to figure out how to enact merit pay correctly, in a way that will be fair for teachers, and in a way that will not put additional, unnecessary pressure on our most precious commodity:  our students. 

I have grave concerns about what this bill will do to our pre-service teachers.  Lately, when I have met these teachers at the universities I am visiting, this bill is the first thing they ask me about.  They ask me if it is going to be okay and they ask if it is normal to question if they want to be educators anymore.  I listen to these bright, eager students question their choice to become teachers.  What will we have to offer them? How will we attract teachers?  And what will happen to those high-needs schools such as my own where 94% of the children are on free and reduced lunch, where we already have issues attracting and retaining our teachers?  Those students need and deserve the best teachers.  This bill will not provide that.

Eliminating the Dale Hickham funding for National Board Certified teachers will be detrimental.  For me, this was the most transformative process I went through as a teacher.  It taught me to use student data to drive my instruction and meet the needs of every child, to contemplate everything I did in the classroom in regards to how it affected my students, and to realize that we are constantly growing as teachers.  This process makes teachers stronger for one goal...to better meet the needs of every student.  I worry about having no incentive in Florida for other teachers to have this experience.  If they have to pay $2,500 to potentially earn something that is not valued in the eyes of their state, what is the motivation?  Our students will be losing out.

So I ask you to please listen to those who are with students every day in mind, body, and soul.   Listen to the parents and educators who are reaching out to you, their elected official, sharing their concerns.  Your teachers know this is not the best solution for our students — for Florida’s future.  We must reform education but we must do it the right way.

Thank you for your time,
Megan M. Allen, NBCT 2008
2010 Florida Teacher of the Year
National Teacher of the Year Finalist
Fourth grade teacher
Cleveland Elementary School
   

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:57am]

    

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