Monday, April 12, 2010

SB6: Letter from FACTE to Governor Crist

Dear Governor Crist,

The Florida Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (FACTE) embraces the accountability standards cited in SB6/HB 7189. While FACTE supports these measures, we believe strongly that all teacher preparation service providers should be held to the same standards. This bill does not address these concerns since various service providers remain exempt from the same level of accountability as college/university approved preparation programs. With that said, our major concern regarding this legislation is for the children who will be adversely impacted by this legislation.....those in struggling schools, those with disabilities, and those whose first language is not English.

FACTE has tried in good faith to improve this legislation. We have met with numerous legislators and legislative aides to communicate our concerns and provide suggested language that would make the proposed legislation more acceptable, but for various reasons we have been rebuffed at every level. From our perspective, many of our suggestions were simply common sense revisions. While we realize there may be political reasons for the refusal of members of the legislature to entertain these suggested amendments, the truth is… the proposed legislation is fraught with problems and unintended consequences that have potential for an extremely negative impact on education in Florida.

Even among the supporters of this proposed legislation, there seems to be an awareness of significant issues and concerns which are addressed with the argument that future legislation will fix these problems. In other words, “just trust us”. Unfortunately, the manner in which this legislation was developed, and the process used by its supporters to move this legislation through both houses of the legislature, does not lend itself to building trust. Although there are many positive features in SB6/HB1789, the issues of concern far outweigh any benefit.

Some additional FACTE issues of concern include:

- The difficulty of placing our candidates with outstanding teachers in clinical settings. With high stakes testing, it is already very difficult to persuade teachers to take on the additional responsibilities of mentoring and working with our candidates. The proposed legislation exacerbates this problem by not including incentives that would encourage outstanding teachers to assume this responsibility. In fact, the legislation’s provisions are a disincentive as so much of a teacher’s worth is judged solely on high-stakes testing. This is not a trivial issue. The ultimate quality of teacher education programs rests with our ability to have our candidates working with the best teachers.

- The need for clarification of the language related to prohibiting new teachers to teach science, reading or mathematics if they are not certified in those subject areas. Does this apply to elementary schools? There is no Mathematics or Science certification at this level. Are elementary education graduates permitted to teach elementary education mathematics and science if this bill passes? If not, this presents a staffing and administrative catastrophe.

- The lack of explanation in the bill regarding the process to be used by approved teacher education programs to provide assistance to graduates that are struggling teachers. Shouldn’t this be coordinated and conducted at the request of a school district? Shouldn’t all alternative providers (e.g., Teach for America) be required to offer the same guarantee? Why is this provision only applicable to those that are entering the profession through college and university approved preparation programs?

- The language in the proposed legislation that requires teacher education instructors to have teaching experience and/or clinical education training. FACTE proposed language that would only require those supervising field experience or those teaching in methods courses to address this requirement. The way the proposed legislation now reads all those teaching in a teacher preparation program would need to meet this requirement. What about those teaching content courses? What about those teaching foundations courses such as “History of Education”? Some who teach courses included in a teacher preparation program may not be Education faculty, e.g., statisticians teaching Educational Statistics. This requirement would present an unnecessary hurdle to the inter-disciplinary use of the college faculty without providing any real benefit.

- The removal of “academic degrees held” as a factor in the salary schedule. There are many, many advanced degrees that are extremely valuable in assisting teachers in the improvement of academic achievement in their classroom (such as Reading Education). Understanding the research and theoretical underpinnings of effective instruction can be extremely important to teachers in terms of their development in the classroom. While other variables are important in terms of financially awarding teachers, the incentive to create life-long learners in our profession is essential. When compared to the brain-dead professional development opportunities that currently exist in many of our school districts there must be strong incentives for our teachers to grow and develop as they mature in the profession. This provision as it now reads is detrimental to the goal of continuing to build a quality workforce in our profession.

It should be stressed that these concerns, while having specific impact on teacher education programs, ultimately will impact the quality of education for students in Florida. Nowhere will this legislation’s negative impact be felt more keenly than with our neediest students, children in struggling schools, those with disabilities, and those whose first language is not English. Statutes that impinge on the quality of efforts to prepare teachers impact the quality of instruction in our K-12 classrooms, which ultimately affects student preparation for higher education and a productive, informed citizenry and workforce.

FACTE remains committed to working with the legislature and the Governor’s office to improve education and specifically teacher education in Florida. We are committed to working cooperatively with your office, legislative offices and the Florida Department of Education. Please feel free to contact me if there are questions in regard to FACTE’s concerns. Again, we are encouraging the Governor to veto this legislation.


Robert Shockley

Executive Director

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