Sunday, March 28, 2010

Florida Closer To Merit Pay Law For Teachers

Recently, Florida’s Senate Bill 6 narrowly passed last week along party lines. Oddly, Democrats were in unanimous opposition even though the measure is similar to a push outlined by President Obama earlier this month.

From an article on The News Herald:
Ending tenure would give principals and districts more flexibility in staffing. For example, it would eliminate the current situation in which districts during lean budget times are forced to cut high-performing but less-experienced teachers on annual contracts because they are required to keep less-qualified staff with guaranteed contracts — and in some cases, moving support staff into classrooms they are ill-prepared for. That is placing union job security ahead of students’ best interests.

As for merit pay, the state has for years been cycling through different programs that have met with little success. The biggest stumbling block always has been constructing a method of evaluating teachers that genuinely differentiates between the good and the not-so-good ones, but which also takes into account the unique circumstances they face.

Clearly, teachers can’t be judged solely on hard numbers the way a salesperson or manufacturer can. Standardized test scores are an important marker, but the range of learning abilities across student populations — and the social and economic factors that influence child development and that are outside a teacher’s control — complicate the metrics. There are multiple shades of many colors to consider.

Just because the effort is difficult doesn’t mean it should be abandoned. Teacher pay shouldn’t be based primarily on experience or the number of degrees or certifications earned. Measuring education outputs must be the crux. Good teachers have made demonstrably positive differences with students even in the worst settings.

Ask the teachers themselves. They will tell you who the good ones and bad ones are in their schools. The challenge is to quantify that.
I think a move towards merit pay is an excellent idea, but as the article states, it is difficult to quantify a good teacher from a bad one. The logistics alone seem very daunting, and in order to get an accurate portrayal of a teacher's quality, I would believe the best way would involve tracking of a student's performance from the moment they take the teacher's class through any future classes of similar course material. I would also be worried that unethical teachers would pad their grades to prevent themselves from being on the bottom rung. While some teachers express a fear over job security, pay, and benefits, I would think that if you are a good teacher, there would be nothing to be afraid about.

Like health care, while the proposed changes may not be perfect, it is a start to fixing a broken system.

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