Recently a frequent poster in the Tampa Bay Times Gradebook (Facebook group) asked the question, “What do educators want?” with a link to a podcast outlining the proposals of Florida’s new governor, Ron DeSantis.
- A salary (not bonuses) that is commensurate with the pay of other professionals and that allows every teacher to live in their district without the need for a second or even a third job to afford the cost of living. Teachers aren’t looking to get rich, but like everyone else, they would like to make enough to afford basics for their families and themselves.
- Job security. Teachers want the stability of a position that does not depend upon fluctuating enrollment, the whim of legislative funding, or an arbitrary evaluation process based upon invalid data and administrative checklists.
- Respect. An end to all the ‘bad teacher’ tropes.
- All of the above for everyone who works for a school system, not merely teachers, but support personnel, counselors, media specialists, paraprofessionals, custodians, cafeteria workers, maintenance, clerks, secretaries, and even school administrators. Think of the change in leadership that would take place if school principals knew that their job did not depend upon annual test scores.
- Wrap-around services to meet the real needs of children, including school nurses and medical screenings, enough counselors to handle the load of children carrying trauma and other emotional problems, social services to address hunger and neglect, compassionate truancy officers who will find and solve why children don’t come to school (sometimes it’s as simple as they have no clean clothes to wear.)
- Full funding by states as they take seriously their constitutional commitments to provide a system of public schools.
- Equity and fairness for all students that includes maintaining or increasing the diversity of student populations at every school, providing the resources needed by schools located in impoverished and minority neighborhoods, and keeping the buildings in good repair. The surrounding neighborhoods need attention, too.
- An end to bogus evaluation schemes that no serious researcher, expert, or professional statistician supports. VAM may help a farmer to understand how to get a cow to produce more milk, but GOT knows of no teacher whose instructional practice consists of putting cups on teats to maximize achievement.
- Realistic class sizes that allow teachers to give every student the attention they deserve. For Florida, that means respecting the will of the voters for once and giving schools the resources needed to build classrooms and hire teachers so that no high school class exceeds 25 students; middle school, 22 students; elementary, 18 students. Florida voters were given a chance two times to alter the amendment. No dice.
- True accountability that measures all we ask a school to do. Riddance to a flawed, narrowly focused measure of test scores. An acknowledgment that testing does not yield a true measure of student learning. Teachers do not want to escape accountability, but they would like it to actually measure how effective they are. Test scores cannot do this and never will.