Florida’s LEAs undermining landmark teacher pay law

Florida’s LEAs undermining landmark teacher pay law

(Fla.) Despite landmark legislation adopted in 2011 intended to tie teacher pay to student performance, the vast majority of Florida’s classroom educators continue to receive ‘highly effective’ ratings while salary increases in many districts are granted with no connection to test scores.

A report this month from the National Council on Teacher Quality found that districts appear to be taking advantage of a loophole in the new salary law that is may be overlooking many of the state’s best teachers.

“Our findings demonstrate a clear disconnect between the spirit of the law and its implementation,” the NCTQ observed. “This means that the majority of the districts we reviewed are continuing to invest significant sums of money each year in a compensation system that is not reflective of what they no doubt value most: student learning and growth.”

Perhaps best known for its annual review of teacher preparation programs throughout the country, the NCTQ gave high marks to Florida lawmakers six years ago for passage of one of the nation’s most sweeping efforts to link teacher pay with student growth.

The law allows local school districts to design their own teacher evaluation process but requires at least 50 percent of the final results be based on how students performed on annual state assessments.

Teachers hired after July 1, 2014 are also subject to a new salary system that limits increases to base salary to those teachers earning designation as “highly effective.” Lawmakers were careful to eliminate automatic pay raises for additional years of service.

Also excluded—at least intended to be excluded—are salary increases driven by advanced degrees, one of the traditional routes to higher pay that research has shown does not necessarily make a teacher more effective.

But the NCTQ’s survey of 18 of Florida’s largest school districts found 16 of them that continue to award bonuses to teachers that earn advanced degrees, in apparent contradiction of the law.

“While the road from legislation to implementation is rarely smooth, in the case of Florida it takes a u-turn,” NCTQ said. “Only two out of the 18 Florida districts we analyzed are implementing performance pay system that comply with the spirit of the law. These 16 districts appear wedded to a pay system based on the disproven hypothesis that an advanced degree will make a teacher more effective.”

In Brevard County Public Schools, for instance, a teacher designated as highly effective in 2016-17 won an additional $445 in annual pay. In the same district, those with a Master’s degree were given an additional $2,868.

A highly effective teacher in Orange County Public Schools was given $1,380, while one with a Master’s degree got more than twice that amount–$2,843.

The gap is perhaps even more glaring given that the teacher evaluation process fails to cull good teachers from bad, the teacher organization concluded.

“Because Florida's performance pay system relies on its teacher evaluation system, and because Florida's teacher evaluation system fails to adequately differentiate between teachers who are making the greatest contributions to student growth and those who are not, Florida's performance pay system does not necessarily provide the highest awards to the teachers who are genuinely making the greatest contributions to student growth,” the NCTQ said.