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In my last blog post I lambasted Representative Erik Fresen and Governor Rick Scott for their lame brained “Best and Brightest” Scholarship program which gives $10,000 bonuses for teachers based on their college entrance exam scores. Considering that the College Board has told several teachers that there are no percentile rankings available for tests taken prior to 2004, most teachers over 30 are going to have a hard time qualifying for the bonus. Perhaps a better name for Fresen’s law would be Florida’s “Youngest and Least Experienced” Scholarship?

One parent of a Teach for America participant called me out for disparaging Teach for America in my last bog. I actually spent most of my blog disparaging Erik Fresen and Rick Scott, but after doing a little research on Teach for America when she asked for data backing up my claim that Teach for America recruits don’t last long in the classroom, I found so much dirt on Teach for America that it merited an entire blog of disparaging them. Thanks for the inspiration TFA mom!

Is it a coincidence that the same year that Governor Rick Scott appoints Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, a Teach For America executive, to the State Board of Education that a ridiculous law giving large bonuses to teachers with high SAT/ACT scores, even though they may have never even stepped foot in a classroom, gets signed into law completely bypassing the legislative process?

According to a report from the National Center for Teacher Quality,

“Since its inception, TFA has placed a lot of weight on academic credentials. For instance, most of its teachers have graduated from selective colleges and have an average SAT score of 1,300, 261 points higher than the average SAT score of other aspiring teachers who pass the Praxis I, a basic skills test required of new teacher in most states.”

http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/Increasing_the_Odds_How_Good_Policies_Can_Yield_Better_Teachers_NCTQ_Report

Clearly, young Teach for America recruits are more likely to have SAT scores high enough to qualify for the “scholarship” and they will also be able to easily access those scores with a few clicks of a mouse on the College Board website. Meanwhile, the veteran old timers will have to pay the College Board $40 just for the hope that their archaic scores can be located. The College Board gives no guarantee that scores can be found and they would not even offer a time frame for locating them. I ordered mine a month ago and so far nothing.

If this were just about the “Best and Brightest” and rewarding teachers with high test scores, why were GRE scores not an option? Because Teach for America recruits don’t have any GRE scores. Teach for America is what you do to enhance your resume to get into graduate school and to help pay for graduate school once your two years of servitude are over. Teach for America recruits will be able to count on making an extra $10,000 for the duration of their service because A) they automatically get the bonus as a new hire B) they won’t have an evaluation to base the bonus on once they have served the first year. There is a nine month lag time in finalizing teacher evaluations because of VAM. So the Teach for America recruit can make an easy extra $20,000 before they run off to law school, become a TFA lobbyist in DC, or become principal of a charter school before they ever receive a finalized evaluation. A recent study by Mathematica concluded:

“More than 87 percent of TFA teachers say they don’t plan on remaining teachers throughout their careers, compared with 26.3 percent of non-TFA teachers working in the same subjects, grades, and schools, according to an analysis released last week by Mathematica Policy Research (PDF).”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-09/most-teach-for-america-instructors-plan-to-flee-teaching

The National Center for Teacher Quality (an organization who’s advisory board is filled with the likes of Michelle Rhee, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and charter school/hedge fund donation “no excuses” queen Eva Moscowitz) concludes that districts that seek to employ the high IQ master race teacher need to prepare for high teacher turnover:

“The findings on college selectivity lend further support to what is already a robust body of evidence indicating that teachers with strong academic credentials are more likely to produce greater student learning gains. However, districts which purposely recruit candidates with higher academic credentials may need to prepare for higher turnover rates, unless they also address those factors that cause those teachers who have the most other options to leave the classroom. http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/Increasing_the_Odds_How_Good_Policies_Can_Yield_Better_Teachers_NCTQ_Report

The report goes on to state:

“According to the National Center for Education Statistics, first- year teachers who scored in the top quartile on the SAT were twice as likely to leave teaching after five years as those who scored in the bottom quartile.

  • Similarly, Richard Murnane and others found that both beginning and experienced teachers with higher scores on a licensing examination were more likely to leave the profession. This was particularly true for white teachers. Murnane also found that teachers with higher IQ scores were more likely to leave teaching at the end of each year than those with low IQ scores.”

There seems to be very strong data to suggest that these high SAT score teachers are going to leave the profession in a very short amount of time. Which if you are the state of Florida doing everything possible to eradicate teacher pension plans, this a great human resource strategy! Bring in the brainiacs because we know they won’t last long enough to collect a pension! School districts will also enjoy the short teaching span of TFA recruits because they will have fewer health insurance costs, be young enough to have no children so they can devote hours to extra school activities and meetings, and think living with roommates is still cool!

So what about those amazing learning gains by the high IQ quick turnover TFA teacher types? Even the TFA/charter school advised National Center for Teacher Quality could not find very compelling data:

“A recent study from Mathematica Policy Research found that first and second year Teach For America teachers produced slightly higher math gains and equivalent reading gains as more experienced, traditionally certified teachers in the same schools.”

Wow! Slightly higher math scores and equivalent reading gains! Well that’s the sort of compelling data that should lead us to offer these master race teachers an extra $10,000!

Perhaps the real mastermind behind Florida’s “Best and Brightest” was Rebecca Fishman Lipsey? Erik Fresen may have been chosen to be the fall guy for the bill since he heads the Education Budget Committee and had the ability to sneak it in during special session. Charter schools also have a lot to gain from the Best and Brightest Scholarship program since they are hurting for teachers to work in their schools, which offer low salaries, no job security, and demanding hours. There is a strong link between TFA and the charter industry. If you watch this youtube video from a former TFA recruit trying to discourage other young people from joining TFA, she mentions that she received a ton of emails from charter schools asking her to come work in their schools once she finished her service because both TFA and charter schools shared a commitment to “excellence.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAKHHHDi8vE

We may never know whether Florida’s “Best and Brightest” Scholarship was designed primarily for Teach for America recruits or to assist in luring young grads to teach in Florida’s ever expanding charter school industry. We can conclude that you, veteran career teacher, be you “highly effective” or just “effective” were not the targeted recipient of this bill. The Florida legislature did not put any money in the 2014-15 budget to pay for the merit pay law it passed three years ago, back in the good ole’ days when all teachers needed was a “highly effective” evaluation to qualilfy.

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