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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Wrecking balls, world-class schools and SB 736



Here's the press release round-up on reaction to Gov. Rick Scott's signing of SB 736.

From Randi Weingarten, president, American Federation of Teachers:

Today Florida Gov. Rick Scott took a wrecking ball to the dreams and aspirations of the state’s public school students by imposing a test- and sanction-driven education policy that rejects the proven educational strategies of the world’s highest-achieving nations. Florida’s so-called Teacher Quality Act repudiates the successful approach used by the top-performing nations—Finland, Singapore and South Korea—which embraces collaboration, values professionalism, respects teachers and provides the support educators and kids need to succeed.

Scott and his allies have rammed through legislation that will undermine Florida’s students and their public schools. It silences teachers, who are closest to our kids in the classroom; imposes compensation and evaluation systems that have failed to advance learning when tried elsewhere; and shifts the estimated $2 billion cost of implementing an array of new standardized tests to financially strapped local school districts. Poll after poll shows that this type of agenda—an all-out assault on the middle class and on the economic security of workers—is opposed by a majority of voters.

Scott should have taken the lead from multiple school districts across Florida, where teachers and administrators work collaboratively on reforms to advance teacher quality and student learning. The new education law turns in the opposite direction and undermines the work being done with federal Race to the Top funds to develop innovative compensation and evaluation systems and new strategies to recruit, retain and reward great teachers.

From Patricia Levesque, executive director, Foundation for Florida's Future:

"Today is a great day for teachers and students in Florida.  Today, Governor Rick Scott signed the Student Success Act, which will transform education in the Sunshine State and provide a model of bold reform for states across the nation.  Thanks to the courageous leadership of Governor Scott, Senator Mike Haridopolis and Speaker Dean Cannon, teachers in Florida will finally earn the recognition and compensation they deserve.  Senator Steve Wise and Representative Erik Fresen, sponsors of the landmark legislation, continue to be unwavering advocates for reforms that provide a quality education to Florida’s students.  This law would not have been possible without the heroic efforts of Senator John Thrasher, who fearlessly challenged the status quo last year on behalf of Florida’s 2.7 million students.  The efforts of Florida’s Governor and Legislature will further organize schools around the singular focus of preparing students with the knowledge and skills to achieve their dreams in the 21st century economy."

From FEA President Andy Ford:

“It’s difficult to understand why SB 736 was named the Student Success Act. It’s going to expose Florida students to public schools that are even more focused on the tests and less focused on all the other aspects of a well-rounded education. SB 736 adds the burden of developing these tests to school districts that have been cutting their budgets to the bone over the past four years and are certain to face greater budget cuts this coming year. Yet the Legislature appropriates not one thin dime to carry out the herculean task of developing these tests – or coming up with how to finance the performance pay tied to these tests.

“Meanwhile teachers will be evaluated largely on these tests and they will lose their due process rights. And there’s no research that says this is a valid approach.

“Florida is rated the fifth-best state on quality of our public schools by Education Week’s Quality Counts report, despite the fact that the state is ranked close to the bottom in funding for schools and teacher pay. That the response to this good news is yet another attack on our teachers is beyond belief.”

The following statements were included in the press release from Gov. Scott's office:

“This landmark bill recognizes that teachers are the most important factor in schools when determining a child’s success,” said StudentsFirst Founder and CEO Michelle Rhee. “We applaud Florida for its adoption of bold and comprehensive education measures that put students first.”
“The action taken today recognizes that quality teachers are the fundamental component of a first-rate education,” said CFO Jeff Atwater.  “Exceptional teachers will now be distinguished, celebrated and rewarded for their dedication and skill to impart knowledge that inspires our students.”
“The passage of Senate Bill 736, ‘The Student Success Act,’ would not have been a success without the months of collaborative committee work and public input from teachers, administrators and parents,” Senator Stephen Wise said.  “I’m thankful for the cooperation from the many groups and individuals who contributed to the discussion on instructional quality, along with the dedicated committee members.  Our teachers are incredibly influential and important to the success of our children and our future as a State.  I believe this bill will attract top-quality educators to Florida and foster a student-centered, world-class education system.”
“This is a momentous occasion for our state’s education system,” Representative Erik Fresen said.  “Excellent teachers are the driving force behind student success and this bill provides for a system that recognizes those highly effective educators and rewards them appropriately.”

[Last modified: Thursday, March 24, 2011 4:08pm]


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