Time is Money or Maybe Not!

wrist-watch-941249_640Suppose you are a really good teacher and can prove it.  You notice that a neighboring district has a pay for performance plan where high quality teachers with less experience earn more money than average teachers with more experience.  Would you change districts?  In today‘s Gainesville Sun, a local economist, Dave Denslow, summarized a study by Barbara Biasi, a Stanford graduate student, who compared school districts in Wisconsin that used a ‘pay for performance plan‘ with districts that did not.   The result?




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It is Time to PUNCH

child speakingWe can continue to feed information to the public about the destructive impact of ill thought out school choice policies.  There is a danger, however, that we are simply preaching to the choir.   Those who should be aware may not be tuned in.

Our strategies to increase awareness must be more diverse.  What would prompt your neighbor, colleague, fellow parent to tune in?

It is logical that busy people preoccupied with families and jobs will respond to calls for action if they recognize the urgency and the possibility for a positive impact. 

I am working on a set of ‘headlines’ and slogans that communicate the immediacy of the need to preserve our public schools.   What do we value about our public schools?  What are the threats to public education?  Which solutions do we propose?

Can we come up with short, single sentences that encapsulate a need or something you value.   Then we can refer people to more in depth analyses and ways to respond.

Let’s see:

  • Vouchers segregate, not integrate schools.
  • Vouches for the poor pay for poor quality schools.
  • Vouchers help the rich get richer.
  • Private schools get public money with no strings attached.


  • Public schools innovate, charters stagnate.
  • Public schools invite students in; charters counsel them out.
  • Charters profit from students; public schools invest in them.
  • When housing patterns limit access to quality education, fix it!


  • School choice means all schools are under funded.
  • Teaching, not testing helps students learn.
  • We need more time, not more testing.
  • School choice is a distraction not an option to improve learning.

You get the idea.  Send me your captions and communication strategies.  We will hone them and use them to target issues.  We will discuss these at the League’s Orlando leadership conference in January.






More Time in School: Some Districts Manage It

time-1738081_1280There are solutions to complex problems.  Take for example the issue of not enough time.  We all experience this concern but for children, it can impact their entire lives.  Over and over again we hear that children need more time in school.  Parents too have concerns about child care while they are working.

School time and work time do not match.  Everyone knows something should be done, but time costs money.  Here’s an example from the Christian Science Monitor that describes how a school was able to solve the time problem.  They managed it differently.  Read the story here.  This is a fundamental change but a feasible one.  IT COULD SOLVE MANY FRUSTRATIONS IN OUR DAILY LIVES and help children learn.


A Coming Crisis

IMG_0466There is always an undercurrent of skepticism about ‘looming crises’.   It is likely, however, that the predicted teacher shortages may be real.  According to the Learning Policy Institute, the causes include:  declining enrollment in teacher preparation programs, districts’ return to smaller class sizes after the recession, increasing student enrollments, and high teacher attrition.  What would help?

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Is Best and Brightest Bonus Doomed?

dollar-726881_1280The Tampa Bay Times reported that the State Board of Education (SBE) Vice Chair, John Padget has called for eliminating the teacher bonus based on SAT scores.  The money for the program has been allocated in the budget, but the law has to be renewed this coming session.  Erik Fresen, who championed the measure is no longer in the legislature.  Pam Stewart, Florida’s Commissioner of Education, is looking at the impact of the program on teacher retention and will report back to the SBE.

How Short is Florida’s Teacher Shortage?

classroom2On the first day of school, a friend’s grandson walked into his classroom. There was no teacher.  The same thing happened on the second day.  The children were merged in with another group, clearly violating the class size limit.  His teacher was supposed to be bilingual which gives a clue about what is happening with the teacher shortage.

Every year schools face at least some vacancies simply because it is difficult to predict exact numbers of children who will enroll.  With last year’s legislative mandate that parents can choose any school, prediction of the number of teachers needed is more difficult.  To confound the issue even further, many teachers are now retiring.  They enrolled in a five year DROP retirement program and will receive incentives to retire this year.  We also hear that teachers are disgruntled at the direction education reform is moving.  For all of these reasons, the State monitors our teacher workforce to identify shortages.

I looked at partial data.  It appears the K12 student population has not changed much this year.  The projected increase statewide is about 36,000 students out  of 2.8 million.  A Gainesville Sun article reported that there were just over 26,000 students enrolled in Alachua County which is down a little from last year.  Some schools in the district had teacher vacancies, but only a ‘handful’ more than last year at this time.  By the end of the week, things should be back to normal.  It does not sound like a crisis here. What about other districts?  Orange and Hillsborough expect several thousand more students.  We can find teachers, just not always those in specialty areas.

States must report critical shortage areas by discipline and geographic area to the federal government.  For 2015-16, these disciplines had critical shortages:

2015 – 2016  Statewide Academic Disciplines or Subject Matter

  • Exceptional Student Education
  • Hearing Impaired
  • Reading
  • Science
  • Science-Chemistry
  • Visually Impaired

No critical need geographic areas in Florida were identified in the report.

The Florida Department of Education has a report on its website that clarifies the real issue facing the state–appropriate certification.  The Department ranked 2015-16 critical shortage areas by the number of certified teachers needed versus the number of positions available:

  • English  115/478
  • ESE  372/849
  • Reading 107/463
  • Foreign language 18/80
  • ESOL  12/59
  • Science  118/462
  • Math 138 /502

New hires in  2013-14 not appropriately certified included:  overall  by area:  PreK 17%; English 10.99%; Reading 9.05%; ESE 7.5 %; Science 4.3%.

While Florida is not as in dire straits as other states may be, those children sitting in classrooms without teachers need to be served.  The state is expanding online education as one alternative.  The other is to provide more access to teaching through alternative certification.

teacher-403004_1280 (1)The Florida DOE announced the Teachers of Tomorrow program which is the first private, non university program to earn approval.  College graduates with a 2.5 GPA may qualify.  Prospective teachers must pass a general knowledge test and develop a strategy with the company to achieve certification during a novice year of teaching.

Charter schools are very vulnerable to teacher shortages.  Their attrition rate is two or three times higher than in traditional public schools.   Their salaries and benefits tend to be lower than in traditional schools.  Most of their staff teach out-of-field.

On first glance, it seems that Florida has more than enough qualified people who could teach but choose not to.  The solution is obvious but more expensive than the state is willing to support.  Florida teacher salaries was ranked 45th by the National Education Association in 2012-13.  Critics argue that is does not cost as much to live in Florida as in other states.  While there may be some truth to that assertion, talented potential teachers are not buying it.  They have other choices.







Democratic Education Platform: Too Good to be True?

ballot-32201_1280It is an election year.  Which way is the wind blowing?  Judging by the rift over the Democratic Party Platform, testing, accountability, and charter school management could see significant changes….or not.

The draft platform opposed for-profit charter schools.  The amended platform added even many more changes:






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