A memorable exchange took place in February 2011 between two powerful Florida senators during a committee debate on Senate Bill 736, which ushered in Florida’s new teacher-evaluation system.
Nan Rich, a Sunrise Democrat, suggested it might be more prudent to wait for the results of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded pilot program to develop effective teachers in Hillsborough County public schools before surging blindly forward with something so broad and untested.
Steve Wise, a Jacksonville Republican, and the bill’s sponsor, brushed aside her suggestion, insisting that if his bill weren’t passed, “children would be irreparably harmed.”
Wise’s hyperbole aside, let’s agree that he is genuinely concerned about Florida’s children. Let’s furthermore assume he applies the same standard to all legislative education policy. His SB 736 is still a work in progress and a leap of faith. Half relies on tricky massaging of test data and the other half on a teacher observation system that hadn’t even been completed at the time. Similar unknown unknowns are at work in Florida’s charter-school policies — all of which Wise voted for.
One of the operative words in education reform today is “accountability” and for the most part, the charter-school industry has embraced the notion. But to Florida’s charter-school cheerleaders, accountability is limited to test scores, and current Florida charter-school policies irresponsibly leave the charter-school choice a far less safe option for children, families and taxpayers
Read the rest on my opinion piece in the Orlando Sentinel here.