Florida, in a bid to attract the “Best and Brightest” began a campaign a few years ago where they want to attract intelligent people to the teaching profession. If you meet the criteria, the state gives you a check for $7,000-10,000. The rules are simple:
– must be a classroom teacher
– The person has to have scored in the 80th percentile on the SAT or ACT, AND
– Has to have an evaluation of “Highly Effective” or
– Has to be a first year employee of the school district and not yet received an evaluation.
Since I am new to this district, and state law requires that 50% or more of teacher evaluations include “student growth” as measured by their improvement in standardized testing, and my student growth for last year can’t be measured because they weren’t mine for most of the school year, I am eligible for the money.
Except that the school is denying it, saying that since they couldn’t evaluate my effectiveness through testing my students, I had a choice: they could simply assign to me the average growth of all students in the school, or they could use the English tests of my students. Either way, this would not result in enough student growth for me to be eligible to receive the incentive. They tried to cushion the blow by telling me that they are giving me a $250 a year raise next fall.
I have been a teacher for over three years. During my first year, a Vice-principal threw me under the bus with a parent, and lied about me to make himself look better. He and the principal got fired at the end of the year.
During my second year, a student with a rich, well connected attorney for a father was upset that she got a C on one of my Chemistry tests. The father called the school, and the Principal began investigating me. He spent a week questioning my students. He put a hidden recording device in my classroom. The principal told me that out of the 50 students they questioned, all but three of them had positive things to say. He went on to claim that this was probably due to the fact that the students were afraid of retribution. I then said “So when a student complains about not liking my class, they are being accurate and truthful, but when they are happy with my class, they must be lying?” Three days later, the Principal called me into his office, and they fired me without cause, which is legal in Florida. Even for teachers with an annual contract. I got another job in less than two weeks. Six weeks after I left, my students had high passing rates for the state exam- 76%. The state average is 64%.
During my third year, I was told by my new Principal to confiscate a student’s cell phone for texting in class, send that phone to the office, and tell him to come get it from the Vice-Principal. I did so. The student came into my class during lunch and physically attacked me in an attempt to get his phone back. The school did not support me. I spent two months on modified assignment before resigning. After I quit, the school contacted the state Department of Education to have me investigated. They also insinuated that I was, as a male, making inappropriate sexual comments to female students. After nearly a year of investigating, during which the state sent an investigator to the school to interview 20 of my students, I was cleared of any wrongdoing. In total, my legal fees were more than $4,000. The student who attacked me is going to college on a football scholarship.
Now in my fourth year, this latest outrage is costing me at least $7,000. I have finally had enough. It wasn’t about the money. After all, if money was all I cared about, I would have stayed in the medical field.
I pointed out to my wife that I can go back to the medical profession, where a local hospital is hiring people with my qualifications for 75% more than I make as a teacher, but it will mean night shift and no more summers off. I would be working three 12 hour shifts a week. She has agreed that I should begin looking to go back into the medical field after the first of the year. Luckily, my medical licenses are still active, I just have to take a couple of refresher courses. I will be taking them this weekend. .
I am done. The education system is broken beyond repair, and teachers are not valued employees. I hope to be out of there before spring. This is why the average teacher lasts less than five years in Florida: no money, no respect, and knowing that the entire system is failing.