This is the letter I sent to Governor Crist, Speaker Cretul, and my district’s representative. It’s not perfect, but I said some of what I wanted to say. I really hope that if you haven’t already, you’ll take the time to read HB7189, become informed about what it means for Florida’s teachers and students, and send your legislators your opinion.

To the Honorable Larry Cretul:

My name is Lindsey Jameson. I am currently a senior at the University of Florida studying Elementary Education K-6. Education is my passion. I can not imagine myself doing anything else. Though only time in my own classroom will tell, I believe that UF’s College of Education has equipped me with the skills and expertise needed to become an effective teacher.

This being said, I am writing to express my wholehearted opposition to HB7189.

First of all, no teacher chooses this profession for the money, as I’m sure you know. The profession is much too grueling, and the meager salary would never be enough to ensure motivation through an entire teaching career. Rather, it is the love of children and the belief that education is the foundation of democracy that inspire myself and my peers to pursue this career, even in an often discouraging political climate. Indeed, I feel discouraged. It seems as though the Florida Legislature has ignored the expertise and opinions of the state’s teachers.

Read the rest of my letter after the jump.

The goals expressed in HB7189 are admirable. Certainly, much in our education system needs to be improved, and increased accountability for teachers is always a good thing. I have no opposition to one-year contracts. Many ineffective teachers remain in the profession because there is no means by which they can be removed. Teachers should be continually striving for excellence and improvement, and I believe that one-year contracts will help ensure this.

However, tying teacher pay to student test scores indicates a lack of knowledge about assessment validity, a lack of respect for the expertise of teachers, and a deep misunderstanding of the knowledge students are acquiring in their classrooms. To assume that high-stakes tests will reliably indicate the effectiveness of instruction is an invalid use of the test results and ignores much of what assessment research has demonstrated. Teacher effectiveness should absolutely be evaluated, but an end-of-the-year student achievement test is not the way to do it.

One writer argued that a test score is an indicator of achievement just as a normal temperature is an indicator of health. A normal temperature, however, does not necessarily mean an individual is healthy. Similarly, if my students pass a test, it means I have taught them how to approach a testing situation and taught them the facts they need to recall. However, it tells nothing of their critical thinking skills, their appreciation of diversity, or their ability to communicate effectively. If these are insignificant skills and do not indicate student achievement, perhaps I should remove them from my teaching objectives.

Furthermore, I am dumbfounded by the idea that advanced degrees and teacher experience will no longer be considered in determining teacher pay. In any other profession, this idea would be preposterous. I am pursuing a master’s degree because I believe it will provide me with the skills and knowledge I need to be the best teacher possible. When teachers pursue advanced degrees, they do so not for the additional pay but to become more effective educators. If, as the bill states in lines 770-775, our government wants to recruit high-quality teachers, would it not make sense to attract those with advanced degrees? I have no doubt that many of my peers have begun to consider establishing their careers in different states. We must also consider what message this sends to our students. It teaches them that advanced degrees will not make them more qualified professionals and will be disregarded by their superiors. Florida is going to lose its best educators if it continues to ignore their desires and what is best for its students.

I firmly believe that our classrooms are becoming test-prep factories, rather than communities of diverse students who are engaged in developing a love of knowledge. I have seen brilliant, creative students fail FCAT because they understand its consequences and are too nervous to perform at their best level. I have heard capable second graders express doubt about their ability to reach fifth grade without being retained. I have watched a teacher, whose husband was laid off, struggle to provide for a family of three on her meager salary. Is this the education system our legislature wants to create?

Mr. Speaker, I have always called Florida home. It is a state in which I am proud to live. Help it become a state in which I am proud to teach.

Lindsey Jameson
Concerned student and educator

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