Diane\'s Blog

Florida Math Teacher

Dear Dr. Ravitch,

You don’t know me; aside from this e-mail, I’m sure you never will. I am a high school math teacher in central Florida. I teach at a public school, and have just finished my 24th year here.

I’m writing to thank you for trying to be a voice of reason in what feels like the war against public education. A couple of months ago a former student of mine who worked for a couple of congressmen and is now back in Florida as a lobbyist e-mailed me to ask what I thought about the current state of education reform. She’s always been at the opposite end of the political spectrum from me (and I suspect that she’s known that before now), but she actually thought that the changes that were passed here around the time of our correspondence (SB 736) would be good for me. I sent her a link to a video of a speech of yours; I believe it was in Denver, this spring. I don’t know if she watched it or not, but I wanted to thank you for marshaling the data and for speaking so eloquently about what has and has not been shown to work. I saw that Arne Duncan recently accused you of insulting teachers. I would like to go on record that I have never been insulted by any statements of yours; I often take offense at Mr. Duncan’s pronouncements.

I am more and more disheartened every year. I don’t know how much longer I can do this job. For some of my colleagues, the pay cuts are a major issue, but that’s not the case for me — while I live on my teacher’s salary and a side job grading papers for the International Baccalaureate, I don’t have a family to support, and I live beneath my means. Even with the 3% cut we’re getting in the coming school year and the 10-day furloughs my county’s school board discussed implementing at a meeting this morning, I’ll manage financially. (Hey! I just realized that the furloughs will cost me 3% less than they might have before the pay cut! Silver lining?) No, I just can’t handle more and more work with less time to do it in. I work more than 70 hours a week, and I have done so for many years. But now I teach 6 out of 7 periods rather than 5. It was a 20% increase in students with a reduction of about 4-1/2 hours a week that I had been using to do the work associated with the students I was already teaching. I see no prospect of this ever getting better, and it fills me with despair.

Years ago, I was an economics major at Princeton; I nearly went to graduate school in economics. I understand that the economy has been terrible, and I don’t blame the local school board for making cuts. Things, as they say, are tough all over. But with very few exceptions, no one is looking at long term improvements, just long term punishments. I don’t know how all this is going to turn out, but I suspect things will get much worse before we see any sensible reform.

I suspect that you must be getting a little tired of this battle, too. I hope that you are able to hang in until the tide turns.

In sincere appreciation,