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.”