Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Local Union President Blocks District's RTTT Proposal

Florida won Federal Race to the Top grant money in 2011, which required winning states to enact a series of reforms to improve education outcomes. The biggest reform was Senate Bill 736, which ties up to 50% of teachers' evaluations to student performance on standardized tests. The other half of the evaluation system requires districts to adopt "research-based" observation systems that focus on current best practices in education. The most popular system adopted by districts is the evaluation system of Dr. Robert Marzano. About 30 of the state's 67 districts adopted this program. Teachers and school districts are already overburdened with implementing this new system along with other state mandates. Now, districts have the opportunity to apply for individual grants. 

Seminole County Public Schools, one of the highest performing districts in Florida, applied for a $40 million grant from the Federal Department of Education, which would be distributed over four years. However, opposition from the Seminole Educators Association president K.T. Caldwell is stalling the district's efforts to win the grant. Here is an excerpt from the Orlando Sentinel School Zone blog:

The Seminole School Board’s hopes to receive a federal grant of up to $40 million over four years have been stymied by the teachers’ union.

K.T. Caldwell, president of the Seminole Education Association, has refused to sign off on the board’s application for a Race to the Top education grant targeted to better prepare students for college and careers. 
“I did not sign,” Caldwell said Wednesday after pondering school district officials’ pleas Tuesday not to hold up the application.
Caldwell says the federal money will come with burdensome strings that will pile more paperwork and accountability measures on already overworked teachers. It happens every time, she said.
“Teachers don’t need more pressures, and teachers don’t need more accountability,” said Caldwell.

K.T. Caldwell is absolutely right. While the general public will assume that this is money the district can use to help plug budget holes, it is anything BUT that. This Race to the Top money is for a designated purpose and will not help the district that is struggling to balance its budget for future school years. This program will most likely add unnecessary burdens to already overstressed teachers, and this is not needed, especially in such a high performing district. Furthermore, this federal money will not last forever and the burden will be on the district to continue whatever the Race to the Top grant requires.

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