Considering it’s Easter weekend, I’d like to focus on three main themes: faith, resurrection, and martyrdom. They say hope springs eternal and every spring I try my best to maintain some faith that the Florida Legislature will return to sanity and start passing legislation that honors and respects the state’s educators. And every spring the legislature manages to ritualistically slaughter my faith in our elected officials like a sacrificial lamb by passing one asinine and mean spirited bill after the next. My hope was that this year with Erik Fresen gone, his idiotic Best and Brightest scholarship, would join the ash heaps of history’s most horrible ideas in education reform. I was wrong. His charter school invested Miami homeboy, Representative Manny Diaz, not only wants to resurrect the ridiculed bonus program, he wants to expand the program by $200 million and include Principals http://news.wfsu.org/post/fl-house-approves-teacher-bonus-program. In case the idea of six figure earning principals sharing in the bonus pot originally designated for impoverished teachers isn’t already infuriating enough, Diaz pours a little more salt in your wounds by not requiring principals to submit their own test scores above the 77th percentile. Here is the actual language of the bill incase you would like to print it out and set it on fire for yourself http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Documents/loaddoc.aspx?FileName=PCB%20EDC%2017-02.DOCX&DocumentType=Proposed%20Committee%20Bills%20(PCBs)&Session=2017&CommitteeId=2906
(Representative Manny Diaz, Anitere Flores, and former Representative Erik Fresen. All from Miami and all with close ties to the charter school industry. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article110221092.html )
It seems as though the Florida legislature has not done enough to nail the teaching profession to a cross. They aren’t satisfied with Florida’s ranking as the 49th best state for teachers https://www.zippia.com/advice/best-states-for-teachers/. With legislative bills that seek to end teachers’ unions, abolish any job security for highly effective teachers, and now throw already well-compensated principals into the hot mess of a bonus program, they are determined to come in dead last. But cheer up dear Florida teacher, Representative Diaz wants to lower the SAT test score threshold to 77% instead of 80% and now you can use your GRE score to qualify! As for the rest of you 76% percentile morons, geezers who took the SAT score so long ago the College Board is unable to retrieve your scores, and foreign educated immigrant teachers who never took the SAT, too bad. Looks like the Florida Legislature is intent on excluding you from any foreseeable wage gains. Social Darwinism at its finest folks. The teachers with lower test scores, despite doing the same exact job and doing it well, will consistently make thousands less over the course of their careers because they just aren’t smart enough.
Not only is it a slap in the face of extremely low paid teachers to include principals who mostly earn over six figures in the bonus pot, it may also lead to unethical practices that jeopardize teachers’ careers. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge principals their six figure salaries. They earn it for the most part. Leading a school is a tremendous responsibility and they work extremely long hours but they can afford to buy a home and send their kids to school. Meanwhile, teachers with 15 years in the system are still making in the mid forties and can’t even pay the rent in expensive cities like Miami. As far as I’m aware, there is no principal shortage so why include them in a program meant to recruit and retain teachers? I suppose it’s just another way for charter schools to improve the pay of their staff at the tax payers’ expense.
So what makes a principal worthy of a Best and Brightest scholarship? It will be determined by the number of Best and Brightest teachers on his/her staff of course! This is where the unintended consequences of the bonus program may prove lethal to the careers of current and future educators. As a positive consequence, principals might start handing out highly effective evaluations like Oprah used to give away cars on her Christmas show, “You get a highly effective evaluation, and you get a highly evaluation, and you get a highly effective evaluation!!!” The teaching staff will all be giving their principal a standing ovation as tears well up in the eyes of teachers with test scores high enough to qualify for a Best and Brightest bonus. Now that their principal is throwing around highly effective evaluations like confetti, they might actually get a $10,000 bonus if they also win the VAM lotto! Of course, with principals tossing out more highly effective evaluations, more teachers will qualify for Best and Brightest, and the promised $10,000 bonus might be significantly reduced. For the mentally inferior annual contract teachers who somehow managed to procure a teaching position despite having to show their below the 77th percentile SAT scores at their job interview, the generosity of their principal might net them a few extra hundred dollars of merit pay, but surely won’t be enough to guarantee them a job for the following year. If their principal happens to know of a bright young Ivy League grad looking for their first teaching job, they would surely be happy to replace the average test scoring community college educated loser teacher with the standardized testing whiz kid. As for you geezer teachers without SAT scores that have chosen to forgo merit pay and retain your tenure instead, your highly effective evaluation may be utterly meaningless but at least you know you’ll have a job come August!
Being that school districts are not going to be happy if their principals start handing out highly effective evaluations like candy on Halloween, there will probably be some sort quota established for highly effective teachers. Let’s say a principal is told not to give out more than ten highly effective evaluations to their staff. Who do you think the principal is going to give those ten evaluations out to? The teacher with SAT scores high enough to qualify for Best and Brightest or a teacher without qualifying test scores? Will principals be asking staff to submit their SAT scores along with evidence of “communication with stakeholders” come annual evaluation time? If principals are stuck at a school filled with tenured moron geezer immigrant teachers, will they start holding SAT prep professional development sessions during staff meetings? Will they promise an automatic highly effective evaluation to any educator who produces SAT scores above the 77% percentile? Will principals start determining what a teacher teaches based on their likelihood of getting a high VAM? For instance, many of Florida’s teachers with high SAT scores are currently teaching Advanced Placement courses but that might become the kiss of death for a teacher’s VAM and their chance of qualifying for a Best and Brightest bonus. At some schools teachers have started to refuse to teach Advanced Placement courses because they would be much better off financially receiving the school wide average VAM than an unsatisfactory individual based value added score. Even if an AP teacher is stricken by some sense of martyrdom and continues to teach AP courses despite losing thousands in Best and Brightest bonus money because of a low VAM, will their principal involuntarily remove them from teaching AP and replace them with a moron geezer immigrant teacher with no qualifying test scores instead so the principal will have a better chance of having more Best and Brightest teachers on their staff and qualify for the bonus themselves? All of these ridiculous and unethical practices which do nothing to improve the education of Florida students or teacher morale might indeed become the unintended consequences of Manny Diaz’s resurrection of Erik Fresen’s brain fart of a bonus program. Neither principals nor teachers can be expected to behave like Jesus and financially martyr themselves when thousands of dollars are on the line. When the rules of the game stink, expect rotten behavior to reap the reward. Trying to uphold some sort of ethical standard in the face of legislative atrocities won’t make a teacher or principal a martyr, it will just make them an altruistic jacka$$ who lost out on the $200 million dollar tax dump down the rabbit hole.