Flipping Florida: The New Employment Bargain

The only thing at stake is the future of America. Two big dramas involving teachers and testing are at play in education. My last post discussed the $350m federal grant program that is likely to lock in another decade of bubble sheet tests rather than a forward leaning framework open to the flood of keystroke data telling us more than we ever knew about achievement, motivation, and learning modality.
The other drama is playing out in Florida. The Palm Beach Post outlines the new teacher employment framework sitting on Gov Crist’s deck:

Collective bargaining could be used to establish salaries and raises, but the process would have to set a pay raise schedule based on two-part evaluations:

  • Half on factors such as classroom management, advanced degree, knowledge of subject.
  • Half on student ‘learning gains’ as measured through end-of-course exams.
  • No credit for raises could be based on years of teaching.

‘Learning gains’ and how to measure them would be defined by the Florida Department of Education after the law is passed:

  • The department is working closely with researchers at Vanderbilt University.
  • Lawmakers say ‘learning gain,’ not score on exam, needs to be measured .
  • Teachers want language exempting them from issues beyond their control, such as attendance or socioeconomic status.

End-of-course exams to measure learning gain must be developed by each district for all classes by 2013-2014:

  • Officials are struggling with the concept when it comes to the arts.
  • Department of Education won’t have to approve every exam in every district, but will do random sampling yearly.

Tenure would end for teachers new to the system:

  • First-year teachers would be on a one-year probationary contract and could be dismissed at any time without cause.
  • After that, a teacher would be put on an annual contract. To receive a new contract each year, a teacher would have to be ranked as ‘effective’ or ‘highly effective’ over two of the three preceding years.

What the law would do:

  • Partially base teacher and administrator pay raises on students’ end-of-course exams as of July 1, 2014.
  • Require each district to develop end-of-course exams for all subjects in all grades by 2013-2014.
  • Eliminate tenure for teachers hired after the law takes effect, but keep it for current teachers.
  • Offer extra pay for teachers who take on extra duties or teach in high-priority locations or subject areas.
  • Require districts to use at least 5 percent of funding to implement end-of-course exams and merit raises.

President Obama and Race to the Top made this possible; the landscape is irreversibly different this year with a clear focus on the importance of teacher effectiveness. When Crist signs this bill, it sets a new benchmark for phase 2 RttT applications in the most heavily weighted section. Like welfare in Wisconsin, state examples of new policy frames are useful models and can lead to rapid and widespread adoption.
Next up: ending tenure for schools–a state moving to performance contracts (i.e., charters) for all schools as the basis for accountability. Who will lead the way?

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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