Merit pay train wreck in Florida

Florida’s new merit pay law is going to be a “train wreck,” predicts Rick Hess in Ed Week.  The new law  would end tenure for new teachers and stop districts for paying more for master’s degrees, which Hess supports. But SB 736 also puts the state in charge of how all teachers are evaluated and paid. Micromanaging will stifle innovation, he writes.

If schools are using staff smart–for example, having one fifth-grade teacher do the bulk of math instruction and another take the lead on English language arts–the system breaks down. If schools are piping in virtual instruction, or making heavy use of in-house tutors (a la High Tech High School or Boston’s MATCH School), the system breaks down. If a school adopts New York’s School of One model, with teachers sharing ownership of middle school math instruction in a slew of ways, the system breaks down. In short, SB 736 calls for a “21st century” evaluation and pay system that works only so long as schools cling ever more tightly to the rhythms of the one-teacher-and-twenty-five student classroom of the 19th century. Swell.

Florida will get a half-baked plan that relies heavily on data of “uncertain reliability, validity or import,” writes Hess.

He quotes Charles Miller, former chair of the Spellings Commission on Higher Education, who writes:  “The teacher incentive pay stampede has the makings of a disaster. It’s hard enough in the private sector and incentives always produce unintended consequences and often huge distortions. Imposing incentive pay on individual teachers with inadequate measures onto a culture where it is totally foreign is foolish at worst and merely hopeful at best.”

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  1. Pity the slow and the academically lacking in Florida, thanks to the new merit pay scheme no one will want to teach them.

  2. Pity the teachers who have some professional pride. They’re the ones who have to settle for a warm glow of satisfaction while they watch loud-mouthed incompetents pulling down the same bucks as themselves.

  3. How will this work in high school? In CA, about 60% of the teachers don’t have a standards test attached to the course. So they can’t get a raise? How can you control who you get in class? Can you really say a teacher with AP or honors type students is a better teacher than one that has troubled/at risk students? Or what about special ed students? How does that play into the mix?

    See Allen, these are all common questions that teachers ask, but no one wants to answer or they can’t answer. That is why we are upset with things like this.

    And just so you know my state scores are usually in the top half or higher in the subject I am teaching at our school. Does that mean I am a better teacher than my colleagues? No. I know I’m not. I get better students and the ones that struggle usually complain and transfer out. Is it fair to those teachers that get my failing students? Nope, but if merit pay kicks in, the state won’t care.

  4. Roger Sweeny says:

    Mr. W,

    You certainly shouldn’t get paid extra just because you have better students. That doesn’t make you a better teacher.

    Neither should anyone be paid extra because they have taken more courses or have more degrees. That doesn’t make someone a better teacher either.

  5. Well Mr. W, by your own logic you could be a lousy teacher with the good luck to stand in front of a bunch of easy-to-teach kids. Are you suggesting that if it isn’t clear and obvious how to differentiate between lucky teachers and unlucky teachers the effort shouldn’t be made?

    Somehow that just doesn’t strike me as the attitude a teacher confident in their skills would take your implications about your skills not withstanding.

  6. J.D. Salinger says:

    Are you suggesting that if it isn’t clear and obvious how to differentiate between lucky teachers and unlucky teachers the effort shouldn’t be made?

    That’s what he’s saying yes, because that’s how it’s being done.

  7. so how do you differentiate? How would you determine what makes a good teacher?

    I usually get students for 3 years (algebra 1, geometry, and algebra 2), I have seen a lot of students struggle in geometry and excel in algebra 1/2. Does that make me a bad geometry teacher? If so, how do you explain those students that struggle in algebra 1/2, yet excel in geometry.

    You are right, sometimes I do think I have bright classes and they would be successful in any class. However, there are those that I can see learning and working hard and are successful because of the environment in my room. That’s the hard part, finding a teacher that matches your style of learning.

    I would also have a problem with any teacher who thinks they are the only reason students are successful. Teachers that like to say “I’m number 1” probably aren’t as good as they think. Most teachers that are successful realize that it is a combination of teaching, a student’s hard work, and parental support that breeds success. Not just a teacher.