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John Thrasher

Senate bill is good for teachers and students

Education isn't about politics. But over the past several weeks, opponents of an important piece of education legislation have utilized politics as a talking point in their widespread campaign of misinformation and fear tactics. • SB 6 is good for students, good for teachers and good for Florida. With the passage of this legislation in the Senate last week, we have heard more of the same from the opposition:

Opponents say the current system for teacher evaluation is fine. Last year, 99.7 percent of teachers in the state earned a "satisfactory" evaluation, yet 50 percent of our high school students, 35 percent of our middle school students and 30 percent of our elementary students didn't make a year's worth of progress in reading. (And 60 percent, 40 percent and 30 percent, respectively, were not reading on grade level.) That's fine?

Opponents believe that it's unfair to base teacher evaluations on student learning. Right now, teacher performance reviews are based on the observations and opinions of their principal — making these evaluations 100 percent subjective. Using data for 50 percent of the annual performance review makes the evaluation more objective — and therefore, fairer.

Opponents would have you believe that the bill eliminates tenure for teachers in the classroom today. What the bill does is end the practice of granting a lifetime guarantee of employment after just three years in the classroom. This bill ties renewal to effective or highly effective performance, and requires a demonstration of student learning gains for at least four of the five previous years for recertification.

Opponents say annual tests are not a good measure of teacher effectiveness. Annual tests are an objective measure of the knowledge and skills students gain from one year to the next. If you believe teachers impact how much a student learns, then annual tests that measure progress are an objective measure of their effectiveness in the classroom.

Opponents would have you believe that the bill punishes teachers whose students are below grade level. The bill requires progress — what students learn during the year should be considered. Teachers can't control what their students know when they show up on the first day of school, but they do influence what they learn during the year in their class. In fact, measuring progress may benefit teachers who teach students with disabilities and low-performing students the most.

• Opponents say the bill cuts teacher pay. Rather than cutting pay, the bill sets aside more than $900 million a year that must be used to raise salaries for teachers in high-poverty schools and teachers of subjects that are in high demand, such as math and science, and teachers whose students are making progress.

Education isn't about politics. Education is about recruiting the best and the brightest to provide our children with world-class instruction that will allow them to compete and succeed in a global economy. We have some outstanding teachers, but we have some underperforming teachers who are being paid at the same level as the high performers.

SB 6 improves the way we recruit, retain and reward outstanding teachers.

John Thrasher is a Republican state senator from St. Augustine and the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. He is the sponsor of SB 6, which has passed the Senate and is awaiting action by the House.

Senate bill is good for teachers and students 03/29/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 29, 2010 7:19pm]
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