Untangling the SB 6 Mythology
Around the State
Senate Bill 6 is dead. Long live education reform.
Though the controversial teacher performance-pay bill was vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist, leading Republican lawmakers vow to resurrect the measure during the 2011 session -- when a new governor is in office.
In the meantime, former Gov. Jeb Bush's Foundation for Florida's Future and other education reformers have analyzed the allegations and assertions about Sen. John Thrasher's bill and produced the following points-counterpoints in an effort to keep the drive alive.
Myth: The bill would have slashed salaries for teachers.
Fact: The bill creates a special fund, starting at $900 million, to raise salaries for teachers in high-poverty schools, teachers of subjects that are in high demand (such as math and science), and teachers whose students learn at least a year’s worth of knowledge in a year’s time.
Myth: The bill would have eliminated tenure in Florida.
Fact: The bill doesn’t eliminate tenure for teachers in the classroom today. The courts have determined that tenure is a property right and can’t be taken away by the Legislature. The bill does end the practice of granting a lifetime guarantee of employment after just three years in the classroom. Instead, new teachers will have annual performance contracts.
Myth: It’s unfair to base teacher evaluations on student learning.
Fact: Right now, teacher performance reviews are based on the observations and opinions of their principal -- making these evaluations 100 percent subjective. Using data for 50 percent of the annual performance review makes the evaluation more objective -- and therefore, more fair.
Myth: Annual tests are not a good measure of teacher effectiveness.
Fact: Annual tests are an objective measure of the knowledge and skills students gain from one year to the next. If you believe teachers impact how much a student learns, then annual tests that measure progress are an objective measure of their effectiveness in the classroom.
Myth: The bill will chase great teachers out of the classroom.
Fact: Great teachers care about student achievement. The bill will reward them with the ability to make more money based on their skills.
Myth: The bill would hurt recruiting of great teachers.
Fact: Providing teachers with more money is a great recruiting tool.
Myth: The bill penalizes teachers who don’t have any control over what students come into their class.
Fact: Florida’s progress during the last decade proves all students can learn, regardless of the challenges they may face outside the classroom. Evaluating teachers based on progress (what a student learns), not proficiency or achievement (what a student knows), focuses on what the student learned during a year in the classroom. In fact, students who are below grade level often make more progress under an effective teacher, and this bill rewards those teachers who help our most vulnerable students. Those teachers could actually earn more than teachers of students who are on or above grade level.
Myth: Teacher certifications and advanced degrees might not count (a claim made most recently by Gov. Charlie Crist).
Fact: That's outdated information. Amendments to SB 6 allow districts to consider advanced degrees in setting compensation. Bottom line: Teachers would be rewarded for performance and degrees -- and districts would have the authority and autonomy to set their own compensation benchmarks.
Myth: Teacher unions don't object to performance-bases pay models, they just want them done right.
Fact: "Teacher unions not only oppose pay for performance, they don’t even want teacher performance to be measured -- and they have done everything they can to undermine well-intentioned efforts to design and implement reasonable systems of evaluation and compensation," says Stanford University researcher Terry Moe. "They are dedicated to 'proving' that these systems don’t work by (a) using their power to defuse and hobble them and then (b) using the hobbled programs as evidence that pay for performance doesn’t work."
Myth: Performance pay for teachers is a radical and untenable concept.
Fact: "Associating teacher evaluations with student performance, and rewarding teachers accordingly, is now all but taken for granted in state after state -- and by prominent national figures, including President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan," says Chester Finn of the Manhattan Institute. In fact, performance-based compensation for teachers has been on the books in Florida since 1999. It simply hasn't been implemented in all 67 counties.
Contact Kenric Ward at email@example.com or at (772) 801-5341.