By Katherine Driscoll
(Editor’s Note: This is a letter that appeared in Saturday’s Miami Herald. The opinions offered are from a Miami-Dade County teacher. The fact is that there has been minimal or no debate on this issue in Tallahassee amongst the legislators who passed this bill last week. SB 6 has been rammed down our throats and the opinions of persons like Ms. Driscoll have not been taken into account. At Progreso Weekly we agree that education in Florida needs reform and overhauling. But a systematic, Jeb Bush-led push to privatization of the system is NOT the solution. For the second week in a row we ask our readers to open their eyes and participate. Make your opinions heard on this issue which affects every single family in the state. At closing of this week’s Progreso Weekly the bill had yet to be signed by Governor Charlie Crist.)
Florida’s public school curriculum is based primarily on the FCAT with nearly eight out of 10 months of school spent preparing for these high-stakes exams. Students and teachers alike look forward to April when content-directed learning finally takes place.
Senate Bill 6 will eliminate these two months of real education by requiring end-of-year exams and basing teacher pay on student performance on them. Instead of teaching content, we will teach to yet another exam, drilling students at the expense of other instruction. Our livelihood will depend on it.
Forty years ago children were taught science, math, literature and writing, geography and history, art, music, theater, dance and physical education. Today curricular diversity is reduced to information required for a few tests, none of which result in a creative, complete education. Academic freedom has all but disappeared in the public schools. Under SB 6, creativity will vanish.
The legislation will drive away our most talented teachers and discourage our brightest college students from considering a teaching career. Today’s bachelor’s degree is the equivalent of yesterday’s high school diploma, a fact widely recognized in higher education and the workplace.
Yet Florida purports that a teacher with four years of undergraduate education and no experience is the equivalent of someone like me, a teacher with a doctorate and more than 20 years of teaching. As professionals with advanced degrees and national board certification are driven out by reduced pay scales, who will mentor new teachers?
No teacher will risk taking chances in trying out new methods of instruction or designing enriching lessons when she cannot be certain she will have a job next year.
The true costs of SB 6 are far greater than the amount required to develop new tests and preparation materials in every subject, at every grade level. They are far greater than creating a uniform evaluation system for assessing teacher performance. They will surpass any dollars saved by forcing out expensive teachers with advanced degrees and national certification while more money is committed to charter schools, where there is little accountability to state standards.
The real cost is the minds and futures of our children, who will be even less prepared to face a complex and challenging world dominated by those whose governments believe in a real education and act to ensure the future of their nations.
Katherine Driscoll is a Miami-Dade school teacher.