Just when Kafkateach was ready to hang up her keyboard, last week turned out to be an explosive week in news.  I am not referring to the explosions in Boston of which I will refrain from commenting on other than saying there were far too many of them. I am referring to news in the education world that mostly flew under the radar as the nation was much more preoccupied with other types of radar images being circulated in the press. Here’s a recap of top education news stories for Dade County teachers, Florida teachers, and teachers nation wide from last week that you may have missed as you were glued to the cable news networks’ coverage of two young men with names with too many consonants to pronounce and hearts with too much hatred to comprehend.

  1. (Dade County) Race to the Top bonuses were finally distributed to Dade County teachers! Bonuses ranged from $300 (the majority) to $6300 (the minority). Out of 20,000 teachers, 58 teachers received the top bonuses of $2500-5,000 (that’s 0.02% of the teaching workforce).  Kafkateach received $676 but she might have been duped into believing her RTTT bonus was a much greater amount had she just looked at her bank account balance because the district decided to pay the school recognition bonus money from the state in the same paycheck (another random cosmic event I’m sure). Kafkateach was ineligible for the big bucks because she does not teach reading or math and her AP pass rate is not the highest in the district.  Let me state that judging AP teachers by pass rates is ridiculously unfair. I had my highest pass rate my first year teaching AP because I only taught the top 50 students. Now that they are dumping more and more students into AP classes in order to enhance the data for school grade purposes, my personal data doesn’t look as good. I know I am a far better teacher now than my first year teaching AP but my pass rate will never reflect that because we simply don’t have 180 freshmen capable of passing a college level exam. If you want to judge me by pass rates, let me pick who gets to take my class and who gets to take the exam. Currently, even students with D and F averages sit for the exam for free.

Despite clear evidence to the contrary, Dade County officials continue to maintain that the RTTT bonuses had nothing to do with our value added rankings (which we still have not received) despite the UTD memo which clearly states that the top bonuses earned in avenues C and D were based on VAM. I emailed the official who made the statement for clarification and pasted the very VAMmy looking memo in the email but never received a response.  I guess it gets a little embarrassing to keep insisting that black is white when black is staring you in the face. But I realize that Dade County officials must keep saying this in writing or a teacher might actually be able to sue for damages.

  1. (Florida) Speaking of suing, a big shout out to the FEA for filing a lawsuit against the FLDOE and three school districts for labeling some clearly “highly effective” teachers to be in “need of improvement” based on the test scores of students they didn’t teach or subjects they didn’t teach.  I have a hunch this might be one of the reasons Dade County has withheld our evaluations as they didn’t want to be named in this lawsuit. http://www.meyerbrookslaw.com/documents/Cook%20vs%20Bennett/Complaint.pdf

I don’t see how the teachers can possibly lose given that their evaluations seem patently absurd to everyone other than the lawmakers who devised such a ridiculous system. You would think that lawmakers would be wary of passing further absurd legislation and take a step back from merit pay but that would mean they were logical humans with souls rather than vapid mouth pieces for the corporate agenda. Republican lawmakers are simultaneously passing laws to keep teacher evaluation data private while mandating that schools release ineffective teachers’ evaluations to parents. http://bobsidlethoughtsandmusings.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/legislators-are-against-making-teacher-evaluations-public-except-when-they-arent-in-parent-trigger/ Will parents have to take a vow of secrecy or will they be able to pronounce to the world that so and so is an ineffective teacher via Facebook or twitter (#hastag my child’s teacher sucks)? Meanwhile, despite Governor Rick Scott’s attempt to pimp himself out to teachers with an across the board $2500 pay raise, legislative leaders won’t let go of their merit pay dreams and are refusing to let unworthy teachers get their hands on any extra cash (despite giving a 3% pay raise to all other government workers). http://www.postonpolitics.com/2013/04/standoff-beween-budget-negotiators-and-scott-over-teacher-raises/ Districts will be given a lump sum of money to devise their own meritocratic distribution systems.  In Dade County this means that teachers will only be informed how they can merit merit pay after the funds have already been awarded, half of the money will go to the VAM superstars, and the other half with disappear into the black hole of health insurance.  Adios $2500 raise! I knew you were toast the minute you were announced.

  1. (USA) Speaking of superstar teachers, Bill Gates and other DC consulting groups will soon be launching a “Top Teacher” competition where teachers film themselves in pedagogical primacy hoping to be named “Top Teacher” so they can be used as paragons of pedagogy for the otherwise hopeless masses of clueless in the classroom. http://edushyster.com/?p=2391

If Bill Gates has his way (and he usually does) cameras will be circulating overhead in hopes of capturing the next great American teacher in action and broadcasting the video on the web for the purposes of inspiring otherwise uninspiring educators.  He wants to spend $5 billion putting cameras in classrooms across the nation. Note to Bill, cameras are already in the classroom. They are in our students’ pockets.  Use your money instead stopping malaria in Malaysia and students can take out their iphones, film said excellent teacher, and post it on youtube all for free!  For teachers, this may sound like another billion dollar boondoggle from Bill Gates, but since the oracle of education has spoken, school districts are already racing to put this in action. Of course Dade County in its adoration of races and anything digital or innovative, has jumped on the idea and has already signed a DC consultanting firm for $2.3 million worth of educational excellence in film. Now administrators and teachers will be able to log on to the portal and watch effective teachers 24/7! Administrators will finally know what excellent teaching looks like, be able to walk into a classroom, identify it using a $500,000 five page rubric and walk out without any human bias at all! Teachers will no longer have the excuse that the district hasn’t provided any training or any models of educational excellence and administrators will be free to fail an educator objectively if they don’t learn how to mimic whoever the DC consulting group has deemed a highly effective teacher. Beware teachers, “Educators Worth Emulating” will be coming to a district near you!