Tenure and peformance pay are at the heart of Florida school reform debatesTopic: Traditional Education
While everyone tends to agree that they'd like to see improvement in the public schools, its rare that those perspectives agree on the fundamental questions of how it will actually be done, or even what goals should be aimed for. In Florida, recent proposals and debates in the state legislature have pointed toward ways to hold teachers accountable or reward them as their performance deserves, but any changes to tenure and pay schedules may not be popular with everyone involved.
Teacher salaries in Florida have never been relatively high compared to other public jobs requiring advanced degrees, but thanks to the efforts of the educator's unions most teachers who have taught for a few years without complaint are eligible for job protection in the form of tenure. Unfortunately, many people feel that this makes good teachers lazy when they feel like they can get away with anything, and that bad teachers can go unnoticed for a few short years, then become nearly impossible to get rid of. If supporters of recent legislation get their way, terminating long-time teachers might just become a lot easier. Unfortunately, the unintended consequence may be a chilling effect that makes educators more reserved and less willing to say anything potentially controversial - even if its true and relevant to the lesson.
However, the legislation is also balanced with some positive incentives for teachers. Instead of a pay schedule based on which degree you have and how many years you've been in the classroom, salaries and bonuses would be set based on the performance metrics of the students they teach. Of course, there's a potential downside there as well - like, how exactly should student performance be measured? Chances are this means more reliance on standardized testing, and this in itself has been seen as a negative trend by many who watch the effects of education policy.
With a large amount of public support and momentum in the Florida legislature, it is likely that this bill or some variation will soon become law in state public schools - for good or bad. Any system of incentives and punishments can lead to unintended consequences, but the more dynamic system being proposed may allow for more incremental changes to be made in a way that offsets those downsides when they're discovered.
by John McDonald