Recently, Gov. Rick Scott gave Florida teachers an opportunity to comment on educational program changes initiated by the state.
Brevard’s teachers are not trying to turn back educational reform. They embrace it, stand at the forefront of educational development and want the very best for students. To teachers, “best” means a fully-funded, well-rounded education that includes arts, electives and serves students with a variety of interests and skill levels.
Teachers believe excessive testing has harmed their students because valuable class instruction time is lost while preparing and training for and then taking high-stakes, high-priced tests that pressure and label children as successes or failures.
Teachers are forced to teach to a test instead of working on the type of enriching curriculum that keeps students interested and engaged in classroom learning. Rather than more tests, students need a support system of social programs that will nurture their development and correct their personal challenges of poverty and health care, so teachers can work on academics. Students need community-based public schools to support them, not some Wall Street corporate strategy that doesn’t even acknowledge these challenges exist.
Student poverty should be considered as a factor when teachers, students and school assessments are completed, and teachers and students should not be evaluated on programs that were not developed for that purpose.
Common Core, which is the subject of much controversy, was supposed to be a way to get individual states on the same track on subject matter taught to students. It was not supposed to be an excuse to add more testing and accountability paperwork in a school day.
Common Core takes an in-depth view on a specific subject, while Florida State Standards cover a traditional topic with a lot of factual information. Teachers have been charged with doing both, and it simply is not possible in some classes because of time constraints.
Class size does matter. Educational funding cuts must stop for the sake of our children. If the Legislature is offering tax breaks for the wealthy, it should be able to find funding for Florida’s public schools.
Teacher salaries matter, too. Teachers were given a $2,500 raise by Gov. Scott that recently became $1,300 in Brevard. That is still not approved nor in effect. However, many teachers’ salaries were cut as much as $3,500 this year when they were required to teach an extra class without more pay to absorb recent layoffs.
Gov. Scott should seek opinions of teachers before major changes to our educational system are made. He also should use his influence with the Legislature to end the practice of using teachers as scapegoats for Florida’s educational system problems.
Brevard’s teachers are highly qualified, dedicated career professionals who have endured years of budget cuts. These teachers are assets to the educational system and the community and should be respected as such.
Farley Crutcher is a teacher at Melbourne High School. She also is the Brevard Federation of Teachers representative to the Central Florida Labor Council. She lives in Indialantic.