I tend to be a little obsessive when a topic really outrages me and seems to defy all forms of reason (see my 1,000 blog posts about VAM). Compared to Florida’s Best and Brightest scholarship program, VAM seems almost logical and fair. All Florida teachers have a chance at winning the VAM lottery and you have to teach at least one year to be entered to win. With Florida’s Best and Brightest scholarship, some teachers will never be able to score in the top 80th percentile of the SAT, especially English and Social Studies teachers (who may have near perfect scores on the reading portion) but are incapable of breaking 600 on math. Every year I try to be optimistic and think to myself, “It can’t possibly get any worse or more absurd,” and yet every year it does.
Last legislative session seemed to go pretty well. There were laws passed to curb high stakes testing, VAM was reduced to 33% of a teacher’s evaluation, and the Legislature ran home early before they could do further harm. Then special session hit and teachers were slapped in the face with the “Best and Brightest” scholarship program out of nowhere. This little piece of legislation has been keeping me up at night and has completely destroyed my summer’s digital detox program. Last night while worrying about what dreadful legislation might be coming our way next, I imagined a conversation between Governor Rick Scott, Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, and Representative Erik Fresen. It went something like this:
Rebecca Fishman Lipsey: “Governor Scott, we are going to have to revise the Best and Brightest scholarship program. My TFA recruits are pissed. Apparently Florida teachers are smarter and better than we thought. Thousands more of them qualified for Best and Brightest than we anticipated. The $10,000 bonus ended up being a just little over $1,000.”
Erik Fresen: “Tell me about it. Half of the new hires at my brother in-law’s charter schools quit after they found out they would be making $9,000 less.”
Governor Rick Scott: “I can’t believe Florida teachers are that smart! How did they manage to even get their test scores? We knew that the College Board didn’t keep records prior to 1988. That should have excluded any teacher over the age of 45.”
Rebecca Fishman Lipsey: “Governor Scott, you don’t know teachers like I know teachers. Remember, unlike Erik and yourself, I was a teacher for a few years. Those people are hoarders! They have class sets of copies that are ten years old! They have maps hanging on their walls where Russia is still called the Soviet Union!”
Erik Fresen: “And it’s only going to get worse next year. You should see these old teachers lining up on Saturdays to sit for four hours to take the SAT and ACT alongside their 17 year-old students. Pathetic. Makes me almost feel sorry for them.”
Governor Rick Scott: “Looks like we’re going to have to revise the “Best and Brightest” scholarship program to make sure only the youngest teachers benefit. I’m not going to budget any additional money for “Best and Brightest.” If it get’s too large it’s going to be harder for me to claim I overlooked it when you sneak it in the budget at the last minute.”
Erik Fresen: “OK. So what sort of ridiculous new hurdle can we come up with that will discriminate against older teachers?”
Rebecca Fishman Lipsey: “Hurdles….hurdles…hmm…Let’s make them run a marathon! Only teachers that finish in the top 20 of a marathon can qualify! That will surely give my TFA recruits an advantage. Studies show that runners are more likely to be highly successful people.”
Erik Fresen: “Speaking of studies Rebecca, you still haven’t given me any concrete research that shows your teachers with high SAT scores produce more learning gains than other teachers. Reporters are asking for it and me citing that one book I didn’t even read isn’t working anymore. There was actually one study done in Miami Dade County that showed TFA recruits did not achieve higher test scores in reading and math than their counterparts. What if journalists get a hold of that report? http://oer.dadeschools.net/EvaluationMatters/TransmittalofEvaluationMattersTeachForAmericaAnAnalysisOfPlacementAndImpact.pdf
Rebecca Fishman Lipsey: “That’s why we need to shift the focus to physical fitness. It’ll fit in nicely with Michelle Obama’s healthier school lunch and fit kids campaign. How can our students be physically fit if their teachers are fat? They are setting a bad example. The future of our nation is at risk if we continue to let fat people teach our children.”
Governor Rick Scott: “Sounds good to me! Look how skinny I am! We’ll call it “Florida’s Fastest and Fittest” scholarship.”
We’ll have to wait and see what ridiculousness the Florida Legislature dreams up next. But don’t be surprised next spring if they ask you to run a marathon or produce a potty training certificate to be eligible for a raise in Florida.