Richard Colvin is smiling…If you only read one education news story today, make it this series from the Herald Trib in Florida looking at teacher quality there. The paper fought with the state to get the information about the extent of the teacher quality problem there and is now publishing it in grim stories like this:
More than half a million Florida students sat in classrooms last year in front of teachers who failed the state’s basic skills tests for teachers.
Many of those students got teachers who struggled to solve high school math problems or whose English skills were so poor, they flunked reading tests designed to measure the very same skills students must master before they can graduate.
These aren’t isolated instances of a few teachers whose test-taking skills don’t match their expertise and training. A Herald-Tribune investigation has found that fully a third of teachers, teachers’ aides and substitutes failed their certification tests at least once.
The Herald-Tribune found teachers who had failed in nearly every school in each of the state’s 67 counties.
But it is the neediest of children who most often get the least-prepared teachers.
More on the equity/distribution problem in Monday’s story:
Children from poor and minority neighborhoods are being shortchanged when it comes to getting top teachers, at least as measured by how their teachers perform on certification tests.
The Herald-Tribune analyzed more than 20 years of the exams, which ensure that Florida’s teachers have the minimum level of knowledge needed to teach.
The analysis showed that teachers at poor schools are 44 percent more likely than those at rich schools to have failed. The gap in teacher scores is even more pronounced for high-minority schools.
Colleges of education in FL are part of the problem, too:
At the largest schools, including the University of Florida, Florida State University and the University of South Florida, about one in four school of education graduates failed the test at least once.
The paper also compiled a database on the problem.
But what’s most exasperating is that — despite the throwing up of hands by the spokesperson for the Florida Education Association — it’s not as though there are not a lot of good ideas out there about how (pdf) to help address (pdf) this problem.