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Chan Lowe: Teacher pay reform


graduate.gifLet's give the Republicans in the state legislature the benefit of the doubt.

Let's say that they really are interested in improving the quality of education of Florida's schoolchildren, and not taking advantage of a fiscal crisis to do some union-busting.

In their short-sightedness, they're not thinking like the rat in the Skinner box, to recycle a simile.

If you make someone's livelihood dependent upon whether some snot-nosed kid is going to be able to answer the questions on a test correctly, then obviously that person is going to teach to the test, teach to the test (write that 100 times on the blackboard).

And those are the honest ones. We've already busted some bad-apple educators for giving their kids an unfair leg up with the FCATs. What makes anyone think the problem would diminish once people's actual salaries depended on the outcome?

There's no question there are some mediocre and/or burnt-out teachers who are only there because they're too difficult to get rid of. Is purging these few worth the universal damage in terms of limiting the scope of children's learning to the body of "knowledge" covered by some exam questions?

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Just think the teachers will now be held accountable for what they are paid to do. No union would like that , tenure should be gone and pay the better teachers more than the poor ones, again the union would not like that as they would like everyone to be paid the same. This bill is great and next we need to eliminate all pensions fron city,county and state workers who are hired in the future just like businees are doing.


Lets just think for a minut about how many kids can't do basic math and have horrible reading skills. Now if the tests that are given have math and reading parts. I don't have a problem at all with teachers teaching the test cause that is what they are to be teaching Reading Writing and Arithmatic.


Pallidin - I couldn't agree with you more.


It's not that simple:
TENURE IS BAD. It protects all the poor and mediocre teachers (at least 75% of them) who, well-intentioned or not, are doing more harm than good. But what if there was no tenure? Could we fire all these teachers? Exactly where is the pool of excellent teachers waiting anxiously for openings?
TENURE IS GOOD. I was an excellent (I believe) for 44 years (1997 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math Teaching). I never taught for an exam. My students did well because they understood the material and were prepared for "anything." For 40 of those years, I was treated royally. Once, for political reasons (trust me), a new administration tried to eliminate me. Tenure (and some patrons on the Board of Education) saved my job. Also, I could name 3 amazing teachers who were not granted tenure because they were too smart and did not follow administrative insistence to teach for the exam, etc. What if they had been hired but tenure did not exist?

It's not that simple:
Higher grades on exams do not necessarily mean better educated. For example: I knew a teacher who finished her course by January and devoted the next 5 months only reviewing old sample exams. Her students invaribly had the highest scores on the exam. The following year most of her students were ill-prepared and failing. Ironically, those students went to her for tutoring because they had achieved high grades with her. This scenario is more the rule than the exception.

It's not that simple: but it's not hopeless either. However, solutions will be easier said than done. They will require immense courage, fortitude...and time.

P.S. Yesterday, I wrote a letter to the Editor on this topic. Maybe it will be printed?


I think it's scary if this bill becomes law. You cannot teach a rock. And that is why some people are better at tech school than law school. That is not a teacher's fault. It's obvious that some teachers could have tried harder (read some of the above postings); and yet these posters want to blame the teachers.
As far as testing area specific (math,science)I'm all for it. That's the way it used to be. Do away with the FCAT and give final exams in the scholastic fields.
Doing away w/arts is wrong. Children should be taught how to explore their imagination, not repress it. We have commercials on tv that tell children to explore to woods - why not their minds? That's what helped build this great country.
Doing away with phys ed? Really? After saying our children are the most obese? And a mandate to have 30 minutes of exercise a day? What's wrong with little Johnnie going out and playing in the sunshine during the middle of a schoolday? Not to mention the natural Vitamin D his body will absorb?
This state is looking to test the test and not the student. Let's go back to testing the student. They used to be called exams.
You pass the exam, you pass the class. You pass the class you graduate.


Ah, Palladin, there's the rub...since private industry is not giving pensions, then nobody should have them, right? Unions were put in place EXACTLY for the reason we see presently occurring...MEN making decisions for a profession they know NOTHING about.Merit pay has been tried since the 1920s and it doesn't work. Teaching to the the test does not improve reading skills, only test taking skills. DO the research..oh yeah, you aren't an EDUCATOR.


In the real world if you do a good job you are rewarded with raises and a reduced fear of being fired.

In a union world, as long as you let them subtract a portion of your pay you can be as bad at your job as you want and still get raises and not have to fear being fired.

Yeah, there was a time when unions were needed, then the Federal Government stepped in and came up with all sorts of laws requiring employers to treat workers fair.

Unions are not needed anymore and only raise prices and lower quality. Look at Detroit. Our once thriving auto industry has been run into the ground all thanks to unions.

As far as teaching the test...if you teach them what you are supposed to teach them (seeing how that's whats on the tests) then they will pass the test.


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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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