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How to Properly Alienate a Teacher

Before I begin my rant, I would like to add a disclaimer.

We teachers are in this profession for the children.  We don’t go into it looking for a large paycheck.  We’re also usually unwilling to accept accolades.  We see needy children and try to fill in the gap wherever we can.

With that said, I have a bone to pick with the State of Florida.  My current state of ire involves my state’s “Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarships” $44 million dollar program that was put into the budget for this year.

To qualify for the $10,000 “scholarship,” teachers have to submit ACT or SAT scores that were in the 80th percentile when they took the test, AND those same teachers must be Highly Effective on their evaluation from this past school year.

I take issue with this crap piece of legislation for many reasons.

Let’s look at my situation.  I seriously doubt that I’ll be Highly Effective because of the VAM score that the state erroneously assigned to me from the previous year, during which my student achievement was marked as “Needs Improvement” (most of my kids had learning gains, so how this happened, nobody can explain) and, thus, my overall evaluation went down to simply Effective.  Because VAM scores are affected by three years of evaluations, I’m probably screwed even worse this year.

Thus, I won’t qualify for the $10k, nor will any other teacher who works daily in the trenches.  We love working there, mind you, but most of our children have learning disabilities that won’t allow them to make the kind of learning gains that result in the Student Achievement portion of our VAM scores being very high.  They make progress, just not enough for the powers-that-be to consider a teacher worthy.

Now, what about those teachers who sucked at school when they were younger, blew off the standardized tests, but have turned into fantastic teachers?  They’re screwed over too.

Oh wait…the powers-that-be made sure to include a clause that allows teachers to retake the ACT/SAT, but the catch is that scores are not guaranteed to be returned in time for the October 1 deadline that we have to submit them…and we’re expected to pay for the test, should we choose to retake it.

Sucks for us.

Let’s look at some other things that make this unfair.

New teachers…those who have only stepped into a classroom to complete student teaching requirements or even those who have never even done that but are going the Alternate Certification route…get to apply and ONLY have to provide an ACT/SAT score that ranks in the 80th percentile to get the $10k…WITHOUT having a Highly Effective performance rating (because they’re new hires).

This reeks of a signing bonus, does it not?

You should read this article, this article, and this article (my favorite) to find out more about the “smart” person who decided to introduce this legislation.

I guess it’s okay that this person has never worked in a classroom before and has absolutely NO idea what it’s like…that high achievement test scores mean NADA as far as being a good teacher goes.

How about compassion?

How about empathy?

How about passion?

How about having the ability to make personal connections to the section of society (in my case, teenagers) that many write off as being rude and unteachable?

What the state is doing is basically saying, “We don’t give a rat’s a@@ about the teachers we currently employ.  We know they love the kids and don’t want to leave because of them, so let’s just use that to our advantage while drawing in the younger generation…cream of the crop.”

Let me once again stress that we teachers do not go in to work each day simply desiring a paycheck.  I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a child have an aha moment or mastered something they struggled with for weeks.  We teachers get the privilege of watching this happen on a daily basis, and we get a rush from it.  These moments are like drugs…they are addicting…they draw us back to our classrooms even after days when we want to throw in the towel because we’re stressed with behavior issues, countless meetings, or unnecessary documentation.

But…when your “employer” devalues you by passing inane legislation that favors some of its underlings over others, then there’s a serious problem.

Is it any wonder that teachers are leaving the profession in droves?  Why work for a company that doesn’t bother to stand in your shoes and walk your walk.

The people sitting in Tallahassee’s ivory towers have NO idea what me and my fellow teaching peeps do each day.  One representative who came and talked to my school admitted this (he was a very nice guy, by the way).

I don’t know what the answer is, but I can tell you that it’s not this inappropriately-named “scholarship” program that is both fiscally and emotionally wasteful.

I’m not planning on leaving this profession any time soon, but I can’t fault those who do.  They’re leaving because they’ve been alienated to the point of no return, and that, in my book, is yet another example of why Florida ranks down in the bottom as far as education goes.

What a shame.

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