Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Where to Begin?

Where do I begin in critiquing such wrong-headed and vitriolic analysis of Florida Governor Charlie Crist's veto of SB 6, which would have eliminated tenure for teachers and based their evaluations primarily on a single year of student test scores?

One cannot accurately and fairly evaluate an individual educator's performance by test scores alone, especially based on a single year's worth of data (as the Florida legislation would have done) and particularly for new teachers. I've said it before and before that -- and I'll undoubtedly say it again. On this specific issue, I'll take the "what they said" approach. Read Claus von Zastrow, Sherman Dorn, David Kirp, and Steve Peha who provide the right amount of counsel and insight. Today's blog post by Rick Hess on value-added methodologies is also worth reading.

But, first, I'll say a little more. It appears that a fair number of the forces pushing SB 6 and now bemoaning its veto admit that it was a flawed bill. But, those parties then say, ANYTHING is better than the current system. No doubt the current system needs fixin', but why didn't Florida policymakers craft legislation that took a more nuanced view of teacher effectiveness and which recognized the shortcoming of evaluating teachers based on one year's worth of test scores? Dear Florida and Dear Reformers: Just because you believe the status quo sucks doesn't excuse your lack of effort in designing a reform that sucks just slightly less.

As for politics, it seems like, if anything, especially as Crist is a candidate for US Senate in a Republican primary, this veto was an act of political courage. How former Bushie John Bailey can claim it represents the opposite seems to me to represent fanciful, Republican-style logic that might play at a Sarah Palin rally, but that this Education Optimist ain't buying.

And, as for claims (here and here), that Crist's veto will cost Florida funding in Phase Two of the Race to the Top competition, check back here in September. I predict that Florida will be holding a bag of money at that point, this veto notwithstanding.