Friday, October 19, 2012

Florida: King of Unfunded Mandates

Districts are scrambling to come up with ways to pay teachers in 2014 when the merit no-pay law kicks in full gear. The state has passed too many regulations without the funding to implement them well. Districts are faced with the tasks of finding ways to implement the tenants of the law. Here is an article from News-Press describing this battle:

A system designed to hold teachers accountable and reward achievers could soon become a mess that hurts morale and drives teachers to quit.
That’s the feeling of area school administrators who say the Legislature in 2011 pushed through too many changes they must deal with the next three years. Their message: It’s one thing to abolish teacher tenure and link pay raises to student achievement. It’s another to make it happen.
“We cannot be ready to start paying teachers performance pay along with everything else,” said Doug Whittaker, Charlotte County Schools superintendent. “We can’t do it and do it right. It will be a train wreck. We’ve asked the governor to use whatever influence he has with the Legislature to buy us a little time.”
Adding insult is the state didn’t provide additional money for merit pay. It’s like demanding districts take money from under-performing teachers and give it to higher performing ones, administrators say.
The performance pay issue is part of a triple whammy that also requires the districts, over the next three years, to carry out Common Core Standards and a new statewide assessment, all by 2014-15.
By then, assessments and classroom exams will be used to determine 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. The other 50 percent, under the Student Success Act, will be determined by administrators. Teachers who are evaluated as highly effective or effective on evaluations will receive a bonus or additional merit pay. While those who are labeled as “need improvement” or found unsatisfactory would see no pay increase.

When will education in Florida gain some stability? Standards were just changed with the introduction of FCAT 2.0, and the state is now moving full steam ahead to the implementation of the national  Common Core Standards. 

Because the evaluation portion merit no-pay law became active immediately, FCAT scores will determine teachers' evaluation scores regardless of the subject area. Districts will have to create subject-area exams to cover courses like art, music, physical education, history, etc. 

Florida needs to slow down and give existing regulations time to work. However, unless there is a significant shift in the legislature after the election, this will never happen.

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