In yet another example how out of touch politicians who craft the educational system in Florida are, now comes a plan to reward teachers based on merit which is in turn based on student performance. How is that so many people can support the massive changes in public school policy put forth by a Governor who never spent a day inside a public school during his own career? Jeb Bush-of the massively monied oil-rich Bushes of Kennebunkport-apparently follows in his brother’s footsteps. Just as George W. Bush believes that people who never spent a day in combat-despite coming of age during the Vietnam War-are the best equipped to plan a similar war in Iraq, so does Jeb Bush feel himself eminently qualified to change the public school system in Florida, despite the fact this his knowledge of the public school system is limited to only those well-organized and orchestrated political photo opportunities.
Following upon the heels of his disastrous FCAT standardized testing program, which has succeeded in turning Florida’s school into a factory where most classroom time is spent teaching students how to pass the FCAT to the detriment of such things as teaching them actual critical thinking skills, now Bush and Co. want to reward teachers based on student performance. Obviously no one who drafted this plan has ever spent any time inside a school outside their own wealthy districts.
Teachers are in essence going to be held solely accountable for how their students perform. But what about the kindergarten teacher in the low-income district whose students arrive for their first day of school without knowing how to use a pair of scissors, or knowing their alphabet because they live in a home situation where their mother is on crack and their dad is in jail or who knows where? What about the third grade teacher who has to consistently repeat lessons because her students get no help at home because their parents have to work two jobs just to pay the bills?
Is it really fair to compare the performances of these students to those who arrive at school with a nifty HP Pavilion notebook computer? Or to those students whose parents hire a tutor to help them through their difficult subjects?
Merit rewards should start not with teachers, but with politicians. Only if we did that, it would be as hard to convince students to consider a career in politics as it is to get them to consider a career in teaching. Which is only going to be even more difficult if you start rewarding them based on student performance. Watch for a glut of applications at the schools in the rich, two-parent districts and watch for an exodus from the students who really need it most.
Hey, there’s an idea! Why not give the bonuses and merits to teachers who choose to teach in schools that stay hot in the summer and cold in the winter, with playgrounds that are falling apart, with bathrooms that flood once or twice a year. Or better yet, let’s send those teachers to a place where money is being spent on things like improving schools. Someplace like…Iraq.