Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rock On... Florida Governor Rick Scott's Merit Pay Plan

As I near the end of yet another semester in college, I feel liberated that roughly four months of tedious work will finally be over and a much needed summer vacation is just around the corner. That last day of a school year is always a joyous occasion. Its a day where nothing ever really gets done, with the exception of throwing a class party, signing yearbooks, and bidding peers and teachers a lovely summer vacation, as well. I guess the finality of it all warrants good cheer in everyone.

Well, almost everyone.

In a way, teachers are our unsung heroes in society. Its their duty to properly educate tomorrow's leaders, and its a task that goes vastly unappreciated. I don't know how or why teachers are taken for granted, but they are. Not only that, but at least in one state, their careers will be primarily graded on the results of their students on statewide tests in the near future.

What kind of person would put forth such a preposterous measure? Governor Rick Scott of Florida, that's who.

Governor Scott's legislation ought to be given an "F" for futile. Standardized tests are only one measure of assessing a student's progress and a teacher's effectiveness. In fact, the best teachers I've ever had, and the ones I learned the most from, went out of their way to make learning a lifelong adventure beyond the classroom. That motivated me to figure out why things were a certain way in the world. That made me a modern-day philosopher. And that's the kind of instruction sorely missed in this day and age.

What will happen erelong, if not already, is that teachers are going to base their whole curriculum around test taking skills with no value in the real world. I understand that reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic are still essential to any teacher's plan, but indoctrinating students on how to spot the right answer is no substitute for reasoning through the problem in the first place. That space in between the ears is there for a reason.

Furthermore, eliminating tenure at the elementary through high school levels will all but assure that teachers will come and go like employees in the fast food industry. The retention rate for new teachers after five years is barely over fifty percent, and that's just those who voluntarily stay. Deciding their fate at the end of every year will not make that number go up any time soon.

The teaching profession is simply too much work and too much stress for too little income. Yes, I agree they should be paid more, but tying down their earnings (and job security) to the performance of their overtaxed students is ludicrous. What if some of those students are poor test takers, but their grades and intelligence says otherwise? It's a scary proposition, and I fear for the future.

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