What I would have added to my Democrat op-ed on Best and Brightest if I had another 500 words

The Tallahassee Democrat, like most newspapers, sets limits on the lengths of op-eds – in the Democrat’s case that is 500 words.  That makes a lot of sense, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share at the Democrat.

That said, the op-ed of mine that the Democrat published this morning, “Best and Brightest dollars should be aimed towards math and science teachers”, screams for another 500 words.  So here they are:

First of all, I think there are two incredibly important yet unaddressed priorities for recruiting and retaining more strong teachers.  One is in math and science subjects, as I argued in the Democrat this morning.  The other priority is to attract strong teachers to schools with the greatest needs – schools with lots of kids from disadvantaged backgrounds.  The most extreme case is that of the elementary schools in south Pinellas County that have been highlighted by an incredible series of stories in the Tampa Bay Times recently.  While the schools in south Pinellas may be the most egregious examples of low income kids being neglected, the retention of strong teachers is a serious problem at high needs schools throughout the state.  If legislators took the $44 million allocated to Best and Brightest this year and split it up between high needs schools and math/science subjects next year, they could make serious progress in both areas.

Second, despite what I said in this morning’s op-ed, money isn’t everything when it comes to recruiting strong teachers.  My students have told me for the last few years that their own high school teachers have frequently told them not to enter the teaching profession, and that their teachers have used colorful language to make that point.

Florida’s teaching corps is at a difficult juncture.  Nearly all the teachers now in the state’s schools entered the teaching profession when they could earn a measure of job security after a few probationary years and when they knew with some certainly how much money they would make throughout their careers because salaries were set via schedules that rewarded time served in the position and graduate degrees achieved.  A few years ago, that all changed and the rules of employment for teachers took a hard right hand turn.  Many teachers are bitter, and they are sharing their bitterness with their students.  Students are listening and taking teaching off their lists of possible careers.  It’s a very bad situation.


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