Educators across the state are speaking out about the proposed RAISE Act of 2016.  Here are some of their comments.

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This state must begin focusing on keeping the benefits (health insurance and retirement pensions) stable and safe, bring current teachers’ salaries back up to “the cost of living” and looking at promising higher pay to future teachers (and requiring tougher standards and perhaps increased time in college to cover additional areas since we must be nurses, doctors, psychologists, etc. all in a day’s work) or we will have an emergency level shortage of teachers very soon.  I have already talked several promising young people out of going into the field, one being my own son.  I am not sure public education will even be viable, if still existing, by the time my son would need to retire.

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I will NEVER forget sitting in Fob James office and having him tell us that kids were just like the widgets in his factories.   Not in these words, but similar. He told us they should all come out the same at the end of the line.  They should be fixed or run though the line again until they are right.  The implication was also that ones who aren’t up to snuff should be discarded.

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Senator Marsh plans to providing a pay raise for teachers “with strings attached”. Marsh stated the taxpayer wouldn’t approve a raise without the accountability of teachers’ evaluation (45%) based on the test scores of their students and/or relinquishing tenure. Public education teachers have NO input into the selection of students in their classroom. In a Title I (high poverty) elementary school, teachers may receive 24-28 students with six different academic levels.

They teach: reading, math, social studies, science, language arts (including grammar, spelling and writing), and have a 30 minute plan period; a 20 minute lunch (with the students); required paperwork to indicate the outcomes of students; i.e. they taught three special needs, two ELL students, one homeless and three moved from another district with a different curriculum.

By comparison, a teacher that has all advanced placement students may only teach one level and one subject. How many teachers will be eager to teach children in the first setting? How many lawsuits will the legislature initiate by setting up this lose-lose situation? What about investing in training for administrators to assist, document, and provide assistance and feedback to teachers? What about a beginning and ending assessment that provides growth rather than just an ending regurgitation of information?

What about providing two teachers in every elementary classroom so teachers can team teach and provide small group and 1:1 learning? Finally, what about providing an average salary based on the rest of the states? The Teacher/Portal website provides the national average for teachers:http://www.teacherportal.com/teacher-salaries-by-state/ According to their data, Alabama is one of six states with the lowest AVERAGE SALARIES: Alabama $47,949; Arkansas $46,631; Florida $46,598; Kansas $47,464; Mississippi $41,814; Missouri $47,517.

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As an educator of 20 years, I have worked in the most affluent schools in Alabama and two Title I schools. Student’s progress at a faster rate in schools with less family stress (essentially the more affluent communities). This does not mean that the teachers are “better” and therefore deserve a bonus. What it does mean, though, is that if the RAISE Act does pass, it will be harder to find good teachers who are willing to teach in communities with high poverty rates. Education is about giving our children the tools needed to be successful in tomorrow’s world. This act does not help our children who live in poverty.

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If this passes, it will set us back to where we were when I started teaching in 1971. As a reading specialist, I worry that we will move back to the old days of skill and drill and worksheets and forget the need students have to read and write texts.. I am deeply saddened by this attempt to undermine the professional learning of teachers who need many different ways to instruct every reader in their classroom. Reading instruction and success is dependent on accepting the fact that children use many systems when reading, writing, and thinkng. Teachers need to know every possible way to help children access the correct systems for the nature of the literacy task.  Each reader might use a different combination of systems to comprehend and create texts. It takes just the right assessment and a diligent teacher with the desire to tap into each students’ strengths as well as areas where the student needs support because all students differ. Talking, listening, observing, and assessing take time and skill. None of these are cheap and they all require a teacher to continually develop as a reading teacher.

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I taught for 25 years. I welcomed evaluation. I took it as a way to pick out what I was doing well and what I needed to work on from another perspective. Sometimes you need someone from outside looking in to show you. I’m a responsible person. I agree that I should be accountable for teaching my students. However, this bill says that the only person to be held accountable in the school is the teacher.

It also mentions administrators at the school level and that is good. However, there is no mention of how to make the student accountable. No mention of making the parent accountable. Accountability for the superintendent, the school board, the legislature, the state board of education, the state department of education and the governor’s office is missing.

Teachers cannot control which students are in their classroom, the curriculum they teach, in some instances when certain topics are covered, classroom interruptions, and the type and timing of the assessment. Those who are not accountable control these variables. So, the person with the least control is held to the highest accountability.

On top of that, teachers that stay in the classroom and try to better themselves for their students benefit by getting an advanced degree are punished. In every position I know of, the longer you work, the more you get paid. Your experience is worth something. Not so with this bill. In most positions, you earn more pay for advanced degrees. Your dedication and knowledge are rewarded. Not so with this bill. Now, it is conceivable that a first year teacher with a bachelors degree will earn exactly the same as a 30 year veteran with a PhD.

My hope is that this legislation will die a fiery death in a furnace somewhere.