Florida Schools Enter New Era

Thanks to senate bill 736, SB 736, which deals with teacher pay, hiring and firing practices, and tenure.

the new law phases out so-called teacher tenure, the “due process” protections that teachers have against quick firing. It also ties teacher contracts and pay in large part to how well students perform on standardized tests.

And the critiques:

There is serious debate among teacher quality experts as to whether test scores can be statistically crunched enough to accurately measure a teacher’s contribution. Many of the standardized tests that will be needed have yet to be developed. And there is widespread skepticism that Florida, where teacher salaries are among the lowest in the country, can find the money to make performance pay meaningful.

Perhaps you have stronger opinions than I do about this. Unfortunately, I’ve read and seen too much about the charter schools in NYC, and the massive layoffs in D.C. and what they’ve done to bring terrible education systems around.  That’s what I see here. An effort to cripple teacher’s unions, pay teachers more for being productive and focus on student improvement.

There are some serious problems, obviously. There’s the above reasons (the standardized tests that will determine teacher merit pay don’t exist yet and Florida currently doesn’t  have enough money in education to warrant noticeable differences in pay for high quality teachers).

Another problem that jumps right out at me is the further decentralization of education.  SB 736 leaves the Districts themselves in charge of “developing performance-based pay schedules for new teachers”.  I know Conservatives loathe the idea of a state curriculum (much less a national one), but the difference between the United States and best-education-system-in-the-world Finland comes down to, among many other things, a National Curriculum. A very stern reminder that the state is not teaching down to the lowest common denominator.  Students have things expected of them, and if they can’t meet that standard, they fail.

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