Monday, March 18, 2013

Race to the Top: Preventing Instruction

Orlando-area ABC affiliate WFTV reported on the hindrances created by the implementation of Brevard County's new teacher evaluation system. The district is using a computer-based system called Pinpoint by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as part of its implementation of Florida Senate Bill 736. This system will cost the district $3 million over the next five years and is funded with Race to the Top money. What the article does not mention is that along with  most federal programs, Race to the Top will not be around forever, and the district and state will have to pick up the tab to cover the costs associated with Senate Bill 736 after Race to the Top ends. Remember that Senate Bill 736 was essentially Florida's second application for the Race to the Top Grant.

It appears as though this new system is causing more problems than its intended purpose of assisting teachers with their instruction. In addition to a slew of technical difficulties, this system, along with other evaluation systems like the one produced by Robert Marzano, requires teachers to spend a lot of time reflecting upon their instruction as part of the evaluation process. Though all people who wish to achieve some degree of success in an area understand the importance of self-reflection in the development process, the extra work these evaluation systems require takes away much needed time that should be spent planning for future lessons and assisting students who need help beyond normal class hours. Self-reflection is important, but that is usually something people choose to do on their own in other professions. It is not a document you must produce and submit to your boss for approval.

The key quote from this story is the statement from the Brevard Federation of Teachers President Richard Smith. He states that "Race to the Top money was supposed to support instruction, right now it's preventing instruction." Check out the video report below.

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