Those seeking to steer the course of education reform in Florida, which includes the Governor, Jeb Bush and ed comish Gerard Robinson, among many others who have a tenuous relationship at best with public schools would have the public believe several falsehoods.
Poverty is just an excuse. The truth is poverty is a huge issue. Kids that come from homes with absentee parents, where a lack of food and violence are constant factors often perform poorly in school. Quite frankly they have more serious issues to deal with than learning the capital of Alaska and dividing two digit numbers. It is also the number one quantifiable statistic when looking at achievement in school. Those kids that live in it as a group do a lot worse than those that don’t.
Class size doesn’t matter: Class size is extremely important. It allows students to gain more valuable face time with their teachers and fewer kids get lost in the crowd. The Heritage Foundation (Jeb Bush’s education think tank) recently touted all of the great progress that Florida’s schools have experienced over the last decade but completely ignored the fact that most of the progress has occurred since 2003 when the class size amendment began to be phased in.
Test scores are the way to measure student learning. Test scores should be a component of education not the end all be all that they have become. Some kids don’t test well, some kids have bad days, and no kid should be tested all at once time over a whole year, or several years’ worth of material. Regardless the FCAT is just a punitive test that can cause teachers to lose their jobs, kids to fail grades and schools to be close. Instead we need a test that helps, something that is given at the beginning of the year to see what kids need and then at the end to see if kids got it.
Reform MUST be driven by external measures such as comprehensive tests. Assessments are most useful and reliable when they are closely connected to classroom instruction. Furthermore just who is going to get rich creating and scoring these tests? The Bush family profited greatly from the FCAT and No Child Left Behind.
Classroom experience doesn’t matter. Most teachers don’t hit their stride, where they are most effective, till they are several years in. Unfortunately about half of all teachers do not last five years.
Tenure provides teachers with lifetime jobs. Teachers do not have “jobs for life”; they have due process and what’s wrong with allowing professionals who sacrifice so much having at least that.
Charter schools are deserving of public funds and support. Actually, charters have not been shown to have better test scores, on average, than regular public schools, their teachers aren’t certified and they pick and choose who they allow in and retain and despite all these advantages they don’t do any better.
Data must drive our children’s education. How about having a child’s ability, aptitude and desire drive their education; that might prove more effective.
Vouchers give parents choice. Vouchers also provide welfare for the well off and take much needed resources from cash starved public schools. The answer at least in the short term should be to improve public schools, not further erode them by siphoning off resources to schools that play by different rules and don’t have the same accountability.
Performance Pay for the most deserving teachers. This sounds great in a vacuum, unfortunately when put in practice it is arbitrary and hard to quantify. Somebody way smarter than me would have to come up with a way for this to be done fairly if it is to be both effective and meaningful. Also teachers didn’t ask for it.