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Wednesday letters: Teacher performance is hard to measure

Teacher tenure targeted | March 15, story

Performance is hard to measure

I agree with Sen. John Thrasher's premise that the tenure system has allowed some teachers to keep their jobs despite their inability to teach. The number of these individuals is a small percentage at best, but still these people should not be in a classroom. I also agree that teacher salaries should be based upon how well you teach, not how long you have taught.

However, how well you teach is difficult to measure. The senator's plan calls for a good portion of teacher salaries to be based on student test scores on FCAT or end-of-course examinations. Since these tests are the criteria upon which we will be paid, the question needs to be asked: Do teachers have complete control over student achievement?

The answer is an emphatic no!

Legislators always choose to overlook the fact that education is not a one-man show. Teachers are only part of the equation. I teach a student for 48 minutes a day. Their parent(s) have had 17-18 years to influence them. Whose influence do you think is going to be greater? Believe it or not, there are some parents who don't put a great deal of time or effort into making sure their child demonstrates behaviors that lead to academic success.

I teach two 12th-grade economics classes. Each class has approximately 25 students. On any given day, roughly 17-18 of these students are present. Usually, it is the same 7-8 who are absent. Sure, we counsel the students (when we see them), we call homes and report to social services. Still we don't see these nonattenders very often. Certainly not often enough to ensure they can pass an end-of-course examination that determines the size of my paycheck.

So, does Sen. Thrasher's plan accommodate for teachers facing these types of issues? If not, I would probably be facing a pay cut, not because of my lack of effort or diligence, but because the students and their families are failing to honor the basic premise of education. You must be present to learn.

Until Sen. Thrasher can assure me that I will not be penalized for things completely outside my control, I cannot support this legislation.

Joel Melvin, Clearwater

Teacher tenure targeted | March 15, story

The Legislature has failed our schools

Teaching in the public schools is already one of the most difficult jobs imaginable, and I say this after being a classroom teacher for 23 years.

Our Legislature has made it increasingly difficult for teachers to do our jobs effectively by continuing to inadequately fund education year after year, with more cuts sure to follow. Nonetheless, I get up each day committed to providing a quality education to every student who walks through the door of my classroom and I will continue to do this.

The Legislature has definitely not done its part. Instead of supporting public education, it continues to defy our state Constitution, which says the state is supposed to provide a quality education to the children of Florida. It seems, rather, that draining public funds and moving them to private schools is their idea of how to improve Florida's pubic schools.

What Florida needs is new revenue sources to increase funding for public education.

The proposed legislation will merely punish good teachers and make it unlikely that Florida will be able to attract quality entry-level teachers for the long term.

Finally, teachers are important to our future as a state and as a nation. This bill punishes good teachers and is bad policy. There are already procedures in place to remove bad teachers. This bill is just another attempt by the Legislature to avoid adequate funding for education.

Shelley G. Foster, Clearwater

Formula for brain drain

The lack of wisdom currently exhibited by the Republican Party in Florida concerning ending teacher tenure is appalling. By seeking to create a system bereft of employment safeguards, Florida Republicans are continuing the erosion of an already fragile educational middle class.

The salary of teachers is well below that of administrators, and to further destabilize the teaching profession will further deplete education of necessary talent. Florida will only suffer a "brain drain" of educational leadership if such foolish legislation ending teacher tenure is passed into law.

Robert J. King, St. Petersburg

Add sense to rail plans

The thought of high-speed and light rail appeals to me as I fondly remember my experiences with both while in Europe. What bothers me, though, is the apparent lack of any concrete plan for implementing either. Sure, we have the stimulus money for high speed and the county "administrators" want to jack up our sales tax by a penny for light rail as well as some other more necessary projects.

But once the money is in place, what then? How and on what is that money to be spent? Has anyone bothered to look at the rail systems that are currently in place as opposed to laying all new tracks? Has anyone considered a monorail system?

My wife and I spent a lovely Valentine's weekend this year in Winter Park. To get there and back from Tampa we booked coach seats with Amtrak. The trip, with stops in Lakeland, Orlando and Kissimmee, took two hours each way and cost a total of $44 for the two of us round trip.

And we need a high-speed train between Tampa and Orlando because …? To save an hour of travel time? Would it not make more sense to add more trips to the existing schedule, say an over and back in the morning and an over and back in the evening?

Before we reinvent the wheel, let's look at what we already have in place and build on it.

Jon Rector, Tampa

Going to excess on trains

Wake up, Tampa Bay! A lot of big companies and consultants are going to get rich building a high- speed railroad to Orlando.

If the project is ever approved, more than a billion dollars will be needed and we will pay for it for a long time. For one-tenth of that cost, diesel-hauled trains with modern cars could do the same job over the existing railroad at 79 mph. CSX or Amtrak could be paid to run them and we would avoid the cost of a big railroad management structure that will go on forever.

Pictures and details of successful low-cost installations in other parts of the country have been shared with TBARTA. Unfortunately, our leaders are enamored with this new concept and have not considered the practical advantages of standard railroad operation, let alone who would ride such an expensive new toy.

High-speed trains will be great for long distances where speed is an advantage. Wouldn't it be wonderful to ride from Florida to New York on the same day?

Robert A. Stanton, Seminole

Census form

Further dividing us

Although I have not yet received my "resident" form, it is my understanding that we are offered a plethora of options under "race," including "other." It seems like an effort for the government to further pigeonhole every aspect of our lives, and I don't consider that information relevant.

What can be gained by finding more ways to make additional divisions of our population? The same with income, marital status, etc. I thought it was for counting people for representation purposes.

I will check the box marked "other" and write in American. I'd love to see more people do the same.

Don Niemann, Seminole

Wednesday letters: Teacher performance is hard to measure 03/16/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 16, 2010 6:26pm]
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