What if we applied Senate Bill 6 to legislators?
By Mike Matteo
Senate Bill 6 is a bill that is aimed at judging teachers based upon their students’ test scores. It eliminates tenure for new teachers entering the system and penalizes teachers if their students do not perform well on tests without taking into account factors beyond the teacher’s control that include: a child’s home environment, test anxiety, barriers of language and students who read far below grade levels but were passed through the system as well as a myriad of other factors. The goal of the bill is to improve education by “weeding out” bad teachers.
I wholeheartedly agree with getting rid of incompetent teachers, however, I think that the bill should not just apply to educators. It should be extended to all government jobs, in particular local, state and federal legislators. How many times have we heard President Obama state that he inherited the bad economy from the Bush Administration? If Senate Bill 6 were applied to him, he’d be penalized because the economy is still floundering. Why are teachers being singled out by this legislation? Imagine if we could say to representatives at the local, state and federal levels, “You’re insane spending practices, inept policies, gross miscalculations and failure to implement sound economic policies has plunged a once prosperous economy into a deep recession and Americans are suffering on a daily basis. You’re fired!” Of course they would divert the blame elsewhere because that is simply politics as usual. Democrats blame Republicans and Republicans blame Democrats and they all sit back and, at least in Congress, receive automatic pay raises that they voted for themselves.
I have been a teacher and would definitely agree that some teachers should not be teaching. However, there are many fine teachers who deserve a better fate than to make teaching a career and then, after putting in X number of quality years, get fired because their students perform poorly on standardized tests. I once had a class of seniors where the average student was reading at a fourth grade reading level. I worked very hard with those students but no matter what I did they struggled learning history because they came into my class with issues that I couldn’t combat by working with them for 5 hours a week. I’ve taught students who were put in my class who spoke little to no English who would fail tests because they didn’t understand the language and the bureaucracy at the school just said, “Deal with it.” I was a very hardworking teacher who loved what I did; however, the myopic nature of the same bureaucrats who implement policies without thinking about their consequences drove me out of the classroom.
Students are the consumers of education and just as businesses try to meet the needs of their customers to earn a profit it is about time that the educational system takes into account what students need to be successful.
There is definitely a need to evaluate the effectiveness of teachers and, thus, improve the educational system. My suggestion would be to administer a pre-test to students the first day they show up for class. The teacher spends the year teaching the material and at the end of the school year the students take the same test and the two tests are compared. This, along with evaluations from administrators should be used to determine the effectiveness of teachers. I don’t think that legislators would like it very much if their jobs/salaries were tied to factors that they felt were beyond their control so why are they attempting to impose this same ridiculous system on teachers?
Mike Matteo is a resident of Tampa, Florida where he was a public and private high school teacher who taught classes in economics, history, psychology and philosophy. Mike has written twenty-three full-length feature films, several stage plays and works with students to improve their SAT, ACT and FCAT scores. He has also written or co-authored three books, including one on education. E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.