A bill that will link individual teacher’s salaries to student performance and effectively destroy teacher job security was passed by the Florida state Senate last week.
Besides its obvious anti-unionism (pretty much business as usual for Florida politics), this bill will most likely serve to punish rather than help schools that are facing a number of difficult obstacles while rewarding those that are already relatively successful. It’s unfortunate that the war against public education in recent years is so often waged using the tools of accountability and evaluation, both concepts that might actually be put to good use. Even historian and former assistant secretary of education under Bush Diane Ravitch, a long-time supporter of standardized testing and No Child Left Behind, seems to be reversing her position on the matter in her newest book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.
If the bill passes (as it most likely will given the comfortable Republican majority in the House and the willingness of Florida Governor Charlie Crist) notoriously inaccurate standardized testing outcomes will be used to evaluate teacher salaries and job security, essentially using one inaccurate form of evaluation as a foundation for another; however, it will also have a much more direct effect on learning. When Florida teachers begin “teaching to the test” in a desperate attempt to hold onto their jobs and a decent standard of living, it seems inevitable that the teaching of many important written and oral communication skills will quickly drop out of the curriculum.