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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Michelle Rhee praises Florida Senate for passing teacher bill



small.jpgMichelle Rhee has been traveling the country nonstop pushing a education changes that she says will put students first. Her vision includes, among other things, the end of last in-first out priority for teachers during layoffs, performance-based evaluations for teachers and principals, and annual rather than continuing contracts for teachers.

Things, you will note, that are enshrined in the legislation that passed the Florida Senate on Thursday and appears headed for quick approval in the Florida House next week.

Though traveling from Michigan, where she promoted the concepts on Wednesday, to her California base, the informal education adviser to Florida Gov. Rick Scott took time to heap kudos on Florida lawmakers for moving ahead with the major changes.

"We're very excited about the progress that has been made in Florida," Rhee told the Gradebook, noting that her organization had organized letter writers and speakers to promote the ideas to lawmakers. "I think it will be great. We've been using Florida as an example across the rest of the country as a state that is taking an aggressive stance on these important issues."

She acknowledged that some of the questions emerging on the bills relating to evaluations and assessments need answers. But "there's only so much that can be legislated," Rhee said, suggesting that the details must be developed at the local level with teachers, administrators and others at the table. "You're never going to expect that in the legislative process they're going to get to that level of detail."

As for the money aspects, she noted that Washington D.C. schools, where she was chancellor, did get grants and outside funding to support a move to a performance-pay salary system. Rhee said "significant interest" remains in the national funding community to invest in such efforts, which could be paired with local and state decisions on how to change spending to cover the costs long-term.  

Though she's been on the road, Rhee said she hopes to return to Florida "relatively frequently" to promote other education initiatives, such as pending changes to charter school governance. "These two bills are important bills," Rhee said. "But they're not the only ones." 

[Last modified: Friday, March 11, 2011 11:19am]


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