Most of what I write on this blog is of interest to only a small group of people, or expresses a viewpoint out of step with everyone else, or is so personal that no one else could possibly be interested. When I publish a post that can be described in those ways, I am not surprised that few people read it and that it does not attract any interest from regular media folks.
But my post on the Florida Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program proposal was different. The Legislature attempted to enact a program that would have given $10,000 annual bonuses to teachers based in part on the SAT or ACT scores they earned when the teachers themselves were 17-year-old high school students. These teachers would also have had to earn “highly effective” ratings to receive the bonus (although new teachers with the required SAT/ACT scores would have received the $10,000 as a sort of signing bonus). The proposal was slated to cost $45 million, and it was sailing through the Legislature.
The idea was to improve student achievement by attracting teachers with stronger academic skills to the profession. There is persistent evidence of a weak correlation between teachers’ own SAT or ACT scores and somewhat higher student achievement, particularly in math.
But still. We would have been basing a substantial portion of a teacher’s pay on a score the teacher earned on a test at the age of 17. This would have ignored any possibility of the teacher’s skills having improved in college, or any of the other things that affect teenagers’ performance on college entrance exams. For example, at some high schools it is just not cool to get a high SAT score. So some 17-year-olds at such schools who are capable of scoring well just don’t bother. And yes, I’ve had students like that who performed very well in my physics classes at FSU.
To recruit stronger math teachers, it would make more sense to pay those $10,000 annual bonuses to graduates of Florida’s UTeach and PhysTEC programs. The greatest contribution UTeach has made to the national teacher preparation situation is to set a much higher bar for math competency among new math teachers. UTeach graduates can actually do math themselves up to the calculus level and beyond – and yes, that is a huge improvement over the previous situation. In Florida, there are UTeach sites at FSU, UF, FIU and Florida Institute of Technology. PhysTEC is the teacher preparation program in physics sponsored by the American Association of Physics Teachers and the American Physical Society, and it has sites at FIU and UCF. Physicists can do math, too.
But to return to the original question: Why did my post get so little reaction? To me, the proposal to use teachers’ own SAT/ACT scores to determine their pay was so preposterous that it must have been found in a bottle labeled “Drink Me”. When I talked with college-level colleagues about the proposal, they were uniformly horrified. But I wrote to two state senators who are ordinarily pretty reasonable but voted for the proposal at the committee level and got no response whatsoever. Nobody at the state’s leading media outlets moved on the story, and I couldn’t even get a link in the redefinedonline.org daily news summary (‘sup, Travis?!).
Have we gotten to the point with Florida’s education system that Alice-Through-the-Looking-Glass episodes are unremarkable? Is that it?