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Guest Column

Let the sun set on STAR plan

By FRED KUHL
Published February 27, 2007


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The Special Teachers Are Rewarded (STAR) plan is totally inappropriate and wrong for education in Florida. It is an example of the state government using a form of blackmail against local districts to accept a destructive program or face a loss of funding.

The STAR plan and its rating system cannot be equitably applied in any one school without creating conflict, much less be fairly implemented across an entire district. And then to try to implement the STAR plan equitably across the state of Florida is sheer folly!

The legislators think that they will improve the education system by paying the top 25 percent of the teachers a bonus.

Instead, STAR (I call it STAB - as in the back) will demoralize teachers, cause infighting, and force a lack of cooperation in the struggle to achieve the status of being in the "top 25 percent." This is not an improvement for education. Students will be the ultimate "loser" in this type of a competitive situation.

Is it possible for a good physical education teacher or a counselor to do more for a student than a good math or language teacher? Each type of teacher has a different focus, but all are vital to the proper education of a student. One type of teacher cannot be more important than the other. The STAR (STAB) plan says that one educator has to be pitted against the other in order to achieve a "rating and ranking."

A great school requires a team approach, not a few STARS.

The Florida Legislature certainly has the right and responsibility to upgrade the quality of the education system.

The current STAR plan will prove to be counterproductive. The proposed rating and ranking of teachers is unnecessary. The current method to rank all educators is ludicrous!

The possibility of making that data available for public scrutiny only shows the contempt and lack of respect the governor and the Legislature have for the teachers now employed in Florida. The STAR method of seeking improvement is repulsive and demeaning to the good efforts of ALL teachers.

There are strict certification rules and many qualifications that a prospective teacher must meet in order to be employed as a teacher in Florida. We are already qualified. We are ready to improve by adding new skills and techniques, but not at the expense of stabbing fellow professionals in the back.

Florida currently has a shortage of teachers. I do not believe the STAR plan will draw a plethora of new candidates into the teaching profession in Florida; nor will it be a motivating factor to keep current teachers.

The STAR evaluation process that rates and ranks teachers, and a plan that pits teacher against teacher, is dehumanizing and humiliating. Teachers will have to fight to survive instead of putting their focus on a spirit of cooperation and delivering lessons with "best practices."

The legislators that concocted the STAR plan obviously do not understand the skills and energies required to be a successful teacher in meeting the needs of all students. Every teacher can not win the "Super Bowl" of education or even be in the top 25 percent.

Inherent in the STAR plan is that the governor and the legislators have written off the value of the other 75 percent of the teachers as being substandard and/or unworthy. If the rankings are released to the public, the 75 percent of the teachers will be subject to criticism in the very communities they are trying to build.

STAR is hardly a program that enhances the quality of the workplace. It does nothing to help teachers earn the respect of the community where we have the important task of educating students.

The STAR plan is a Trojan horse that is disguised with dollars to supposedly improve education in Florida. It won't work.

Therefore, I am calling on:

1) The members of the Florida Legislature and Gov. Charlie Crist to suspend any further implementation of the STAR plan by withholding any and all monies until a fair and equitable method of evaluating teachers is developed for the entire state of Florida.

2) All teachers and parents to contact Crist and their legislators to tell them that the STAR plan will not be an effective program to improve the quality of education.

Fred Kuhl of Hernando is a 42-year veteran of teaching in Citrus County. Guest columnists write their own views on subjects that they choose, which do not necessarily reflect those of this newspaper.

[Last modified February 27, 2007, 07:33:33]


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