Best and Brightest- Why a Former Teacher and Current School Board Member Supports B&B

Contact: Shawn R. Frost, MBA frost@shawnfrost.com (772) 584-1454

"I fully support the idea of the Best and Brightest program because student success should be the number one consideration in education policy making and the research indicates that teacher quality is the fastest way to increase student success."

 

The main reason I support the Best and Brightest program is because I am relentlessly dedicated to student success and study after study has determined that a highly qualified teacher is the key factor in the success equation.

Teachers matter. The book “The Smartest Kids in the World: and How They Got That Way” by Amanda Ripley makes it very clear that teacher quality is driving success in the “educational superpowers” such as Finland, South Korea, and Poland (yes, Poland is out-performing the U.S.).

Teachers and frustrated parents often post the picture of the teacher from Finland meme to social media comparing the US to Finland and saying that we are doing everything backwards. 

teacher_finland.jpg

They say this is why we don’t do as well on the internationally recognized PISA test of academic achievement (a mandatory test).

 I agree with the meme in part. It reports that Finland pays its teachers like doctors. This is somewhat true. Yes, they pay them more, but it is also very difficult to get into education programs. This adds prestige to the profession and candidly, makes it as difficult to get into the teaching profession as it is to become a physician. The lack of rigor in most university programs for teaching is the reason we cannot simply use college GPA as a metric.

Having shared the teachers lounge with people who “just need to get through 3 years without touching kids and collect retirement” to some of the top tier professionals, I can say that the variability in teacher quality is a challenge worth solving. Finland has already proven this.

In the USA fewer than 8% of our teachers are in the top quartile compared to 60-70% in nations that are outperforming us on the PISA test.

Our kids, America’s future, deserve the best teachers.

Secondly, as a former teacher, I want to reward teachers with every monetary incentive at our disposal. I regularly used personal resources to provide students who showed up to class unprepared with materials or for labs. Being a teacher is tough, being a teacher who is going broke to teach is unbearable.

The Best and Brightest scholarship is a step in the right direction of paying our best teachers more like doctors or engineers.

Are ACT and SAT scores a perfect determinant? No, but until we have a test comparable to the LSAT or MCAT for educators, this must suffice. Now that there is a market for such a test perhaps ACT or the College Board will create one. Current teachers are able to take the ACT or SAT today with many years greater experience, and having completed university, to receive the Best and Brightest Scholarship.

My daughter and I were discussing the program over dinner. She has a letter from Governor Scott, like many other students, for scoring a perfect score on the reading standardized test. She’s only had an occasional “B” since kindergarten and is thinking about what she wants to study in college. She likes biology, but doesn’t want to deal with death so she isn’t interested in the medical field. She said she would love to teach Biology, but “teachers don’t make squat.”. I explained to her that if she were to score well  on her ACT/ SAT and does well in college that she could earn a significant bonus that would make her pay close to that of people who studied engineering within a year of graduation. She said, “Wow, so I could afford to be a teacher!?”. That is precisely the point of the Best and Brightest program; attracting girls like my daughter who like science and are ranked in the top 20 students in her graduating class to the noble profession of teaching by giving them a viable financial path forward.

We need teachers who are “A” students, not “C” students who go into teaching because they can’t get into law school, or medical school. We need passionate educators for whom teaching is “Plan A” not a fallback position. If we are to compete internationally, we would be wise to emulate what is working in countries that are out-performing us.

I fully support the idea of the Best and Brightest program because student success should be the number one consideration in education policy making and the research indicates that teacher quality is the fastest way to increase student success.

I don’t understand why an organization that claims to represent the interests of teachers is urging Governor Scott to veto the bonus, other than they serve the level of quality of teacher who “only has to not touch students for 3 years”. They protect mediocrity when we should be rewarding excellence, like Finland, South Korea, and Poland.

Our kids deserve the Best and Brightest teachers. Teachers deserve the bonus. America needs a globally competitive education system.  

Shawn Frost is a former High School science teacher and current School Board Member in Indian River County, Florida. He is also a founding member and current CEO of the Florida Coalition of School Board Members. FCSBM.org