Teachers Call Foul On State Education Policy

Jan 14, 2016

With lawmakers in town for Session, many groups pick up the mic to air their grievances. The cries of teachers filled the Capitol Courtyard Thursday.

Teachers fill the Capitol courtyard to criticize state education policies.
Credit Kate Payne/ WFSU

A crowd of educators and parents three thousand strong filled the courtyard, holding signs reading “Stop Cheating Our Children” and “Let’s Clean the House, and the Senate”. Chanting echoed across the grounds.

“Enough is enough! Enough is Enough! Enough is Enough!” they said.

Led by the Florida Education Association, the rally included teachers and parents from across the state. The group’s speakers criticized an education system they feel doesn’t support students or teachers. Joanne McCall is the group’s president.

“You know what I’m talking about! Toxic, high stakes tests, the practice of blaming and shaming teachers, expansion of vouchers and for-profit charter schools with no accountability,” she said.

Unrest has been brewing for months, following the botched roll-out of the state’s new standardized test in 2015. The test was rife with problems, even before it was implemented. Teachers said their students weren’t comfortable with the new technology, nor the new learning standards. Joanne McCall says high risk testing is derailing Florida’s schools.

“Our children are being cheated out of a high quality education by policy makers and their education reforms that are designed to meet the needs of adults, rather than students,” she said.

Some teachers struggle to work in a system they say values test results over students’ interests. Wendy Bradshaw resigned from her position as a Polk County special education teacher in 2015, citing what she called misguided reforms.

“When I resigned I had no idea that so many people felt the way I did, but I knew that I had enough of being told that the whims of politicians were more important than the students I was teaching,” she said.

With more and more emphasis being placed on employability and job prospects, some teachers worry the purpose of education is changing. Wendy Bradshaw says there is more to a quality education than passing a test.

“I want students to learn through experiences, through problem solving. I want schools to emphasize creativity and critical thinking, the things that you cannot test,” she said.

Educators and researchers alike say quality instruction is not the only factor in a child’s education. Home life, poverty, and hunger can all shape a child before they enter a classroom. Monica Tume is a media specialist in Hillsborough County, and she says learning does not happen in a vacuum.

“In education, we’re dealing with psychological issues, poverty, we're dealing with issues, anger issues, foster system issues. So all those things come into your classroom,” she said.

Some lawmakers did hear the crowd’s pleas. Even as chants of “Vote Them Out” echoed through the Capitol courtyard, Democratic Senators Audrey Gibson, Arthenia Joyner, Bill Montford, Dwight Bullard and Maria Sachs cheered along with the crowd.