(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
About 11 months ago, former Florida Governor Charlie Crist vetoed a major overhaul of teacher pay and tenure as a prelude to running for the Senate as an independent. Yesterday, the Florida Senate passed a revised version of the bill, which the new Florida Governor Rick Scott seems anxious to sign.
Among other things, S. 736:
• Requires 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to be based on state standardized tests or other national, local, or industry measures for those subjects not gauged at the state level;
• Requires evaluations to consider four levels of teacher performance;
• As of July 1 of this year, ends the awarding of “continuing” and “professional service” contract status (the Florida equivalent of tenure) and puts all new teachers on annual contracts;
• Permits districts to extend annual contracts only to teachers with good evaluations; those with two “unsatisfactory” ratings in a row, or two “needs improvement” ratings within a three-year period, could not be renewed;
• “Grandfathers” in teachers who now have tenure but allows them to be dismissed for the performance reasons stated above;
• Requires districts to establish performance-based salary schedules by July 1, 2014, for all new hires, and to phase existing teachers onto the new schedules as student-growth measures are developed; and
• Does away with layoffs based on reverse seniority.
Teachers are not interchangeable widgets, and should not be treated as such. Highly effective teachers deserve greater recognition, and the students of highly ineffective teachers deserve better. While merit pay is a complex subject, we can do better than simply paying teachers to age.
Florida once again has raised the bar on education reform for the rest of the nation.