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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Press release roundup on House passage of SB 736

16

March

From Florida Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith:

I applaud the Florida House for their passage today of the Student Success Act, a critical piece of legislation that, if signed into law, will spark a new era of achievement for our students. This legislation is special because it elevates the teaching profession to the esteemed level it deserves and provides us with opportunities to highlight effective teachers while promoting improvement in those who are less effective. Through it we will finally be able to reach that next plateau of success, producing better outcomes for our children and turning our classrooms and schools into models for our nation.

From the Florida Education Association:

The Florida Education Association condemned the House passage today of SB 736, the so-called Teacher Quality bill, and said there was little difference in this legislation and the widely panned SB 6 that Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed last year. The legislation sets up a performance pay system based on student test results, evaluates teachers on those test scores and eliminates due-process rights for all new teachers and any existing teacher who enters the performance pay system or moves to a different school district.

“There’s no research evidence that this legislation will help our children in public schools,” said FEA President Andy Ford. “We’ve looked closely at plenty of scientifically sound, peer reviewed research out there that shows this is the wrong approach to take to implement performance pay and to revamp evaluations.”

Ford cited research done over the past six months by 17 outstanding Florida teachers and Barnett Berry, the president and CEO of the non-profit Center for Teaching Quality (see report at http://www.teachingquality.org/node/1202), They examined the results of more than 30 of the most significant scientific investigations into teaching effectiveness and performance pay and questioned experts in the field. They found that implementation of SB 736 would lead to thousands of effective Florida teachers being falsely branded and leading to unfair decisions about pay and employment and worst of all, lost educational opportunity for the state’s schoolchildren.

The bill, which would rate teachers based on the learning gains the state determines students make on standardized tests, greatly expands the number and scope of these tests students take every year. It will cost millions of dollars to develop and implement these new tests, but the Legislature sets aside no money to do this.

“Schools have seen steep budget cuts over the past four years and all indications are that they will face the most drastic budget cuts yet next school year,” Ford said. “But lawmakers have added this new fiscal burden to already struggling school districts. This additional burden will have to be made up somewhere – and we fear there will be more students in each classroom and a great many programs will be curtailed or eliminated in our public schools.”

While districts are not required to fund performance pay until 2014, they must immediately begin developing and implementing hundreds of additional FCAT-style tests and the new evaluation systems this year. Some estimates say the total cost of new tests, technology and software could be more than $2 billion, yet the Legislature provided no new funding and is likely to slash school district budgets this session.

“Despite the mantra about local control and less government we hear from lawmakers, this bill reduces a school district’s flexibility and authority over teacher evaluations, pay schedules and working conditions,” Ford said. “This bill gives new power and authority to the Florida Department of Education and the Legislature. It’s not good for students, it’s not good for teachers and it’s not grounded in sound research. Governor Scott should veto this bill and tell lawmakers to start over and get it right.”

Backers of this bill say it ends tenure for Florida’s public school teachers. In fact, that ended in 1982, when the Legislature abolished it. What has existed since 1982 is that teachers had due process rights and the chance to improve their performance before they were dismissed. SB 736 will end that practice and threatens to make teachers more vulnerable to unfair dismissal.

From Senate President Mike Haridopolos:

Today is an historic day with the House of Representatives passage of the Student Success Act. The legislation is a keystone in Florida’s efforts to provide quality education in our classrooms.  While the legislation rewards outstanding teachers and reforms the state’s instructional workforce, the real winners are Florida’s students. I applaud Senator Steve Wise for sponsoring this bill, the House of Representatives for its prompt passage and welcome Governor Rick Scott’s signature.

From Barney Bishop, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida:

Education is in the midst of a transformation. Chalkboards have long since given way to SMART Boards. Textbooks have gone digital. Students are no longer bound by a physical classroom to learn. And, our high school and university graduates aren’t just competing with their neighbors for jobs, but with their peers from halfway across the globe.
 
As learning environments and methods used to educate our students evolve, so should the way in which we evaluate our teachers and school administrators. Given that we are living and working in a knowledge-based, global economy, it is critical that student outcomes are at least a portion of educators’ performance appraisals. 
 
Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) applauds the Florida Legislature for passing the Student Success Act, which will enable schools to review the efficacy of a teacher based on student learning gain data and also reward the best of the best – whether they have 20 years of experience or two – with financial incentives and opportunities for advancement.
 
As the future employers of today’s students, AIF’s members thank Senate President Mike Haridopolos, House Speaker Cannon, Sen. Stephen Wise and Rep. Erik Fresen for their leadership and commitment to passing this visionary legislation. With this new approach to measuring teachers’ success, Florida continues to be on the cutting-edge of education reform.

From the Foundation for Florida's Future:

The Foundation for Florida’s Future thanks sponsors Senator Steve Wise and Representative Erik Fresen, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, Speaker Dean Cannon, and members of the Florida House and Senate for passing landmark reform to modernize the way Florida evaluates teachers and rewards excellence in the classroom.  Under SB 736, the more students learn, the more teachers will earn.  By evaluating and rewarding teachers based on what truly matters – student learning – we will return the focus where it belongs, on the students.

“Today is a terrific day for the future of Florida’s education and economy,” said Patricia Levesque, Executive Director of the Foundation for Florida’s Future.  "I thank the members of the House and Senate for their bold actions to give our excellent teachers the recognition and compensation they deserve.  The Foundation for Florida’s Future applauds the state’s legislators and looks forward to Governor Scott signing this great legislation into law.”

Florida has dramatically improved the quality of education, but our work is far from finished.  Initiatives like SB 736 move Florida further down the path of improving education and rewarding quality teachers.  The Foundation looks forward to working with members of the Florida Legislature to continue improving education in Florida.

From Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce:

The Florida Chamber of Commerce is committed to supporting a world-class education system in which Florida’s teachers are rewarded for their excellence in the classroom, and where students are always the highest priority. Today, lawmakers demonstrated leadership and courage, as well as a commitment to abandon the status quo, by passing SB 736. This is a big win for Florida’s future and a bigger win for Florida’s teachers and students.
 
Despite years of successful education reform and positive trends, Florida continues to face an unmet need for a highly skilled workforce. Florida’s future economy is one that will be driven by innovation, and the prospect of high-wage, knowledge-based in emerging industries.
The passage of SB 736 will build on the education reforms of the past and help move Florida toward creating a world-class talent supply chain. 
 
The Florida Chamber thanks Sen. Stephen Wise, Rep. Erik Fresen, Rep. Bill Proctor, and others for their vision to put long-term policy ahead of short-term politics. Additionally, we commend the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate for their leadership, and we look forward to Gov. Rick Scott signing this good bill into law. The Florida Chamber thanks Sen. John Thrasher and Rep. John Legg for their efforts in 2010 to start the public discussion on furthering education reform in Florida.

From House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera:

I am proud the Florida House is committed to excellence in education and has worked diligently to pass this significant piece of legislation. This bill is about giving every child in every community the chance at a better future.  It’s about giving every child the opportunity to succeed. 
 
Most of our teachers work tirelessly to provide a quality education environment for our students – teachers who go above and beyond the call of duty.  These teachers deserve higher salaries for a job well done. What we ask in return is to see that our children are improving, to see that they make continual progress. Our children deserve better than the status quo.
 
In a land of great economic opportunity, where hard work and ingenuity allow anyone to succeed regardless of circumstance, it is unfathomable that we would leave our children’s opportunity for a better future to random chance rather than measured excellence. 
 
This legislation properly rewards those successful teachers and keeps them in the classrooms with students who need them the most. I look forward to seeing Governor Scott sign this vital piece of education reform into law.

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 6:13pm]

    

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