Untangling the SB 6 Mythology

A primer to prepare for next year's battle over teacher performance pay
By: Kenric Ward | Posted: April 20, 2010 12:08 PM
Kenric Ward 150x207

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.

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.  

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.

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."

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 kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.

Comments (7)

11:04PM APR 20TH 2010
Why does the SB 6 camp continue to insist that Florida teachers are guaranteed "lifetime employment?? Tenure does not exist in Florida. This is being used to mislead the public into thinking “bad” teachers can’t be removed without passing a bill smilar to SB 6. The only teachers working under tenure or continuing contacts are teachers hired prior to 1982.
In 1982, “tenure,” which existed in the form of never-ending continuing contracts, was abolished for public school teachers in Florida (Chapter 82-242, Laws of Florida)
All other public school teachers serve pursuant to professional service contracts which must be annually reviewed and are subject to annual non-renewal decisions (Section 1012.33, Florida Statutes) based upon performance (primarily on student progress)
A teacher may be terminated for any reason or no reason during the first 97 days (half year) of the first year [Section 1012.33(3)(a)4, Florida Statutes]
Teachers are required to serve three probationary years which may be extended to four. At the end of each of the probationary years, a teacher may be terminated for any reason or no reason [Section 1012.33(3)(a)2 Florida Statutes
There is no process available to a teacher under Florida law to contest such action [Lake County Education Association v. School Board of Lake County, 360 So. 2d 1280, 1285 (Fla. 2nd DCA, 1978)]
An incompetent teacher may be immediately removed from the classroom
Section 1012.33(6)(a), Florida Statutes [provides that a teacher “may be suspended or dismissed at any time” (emphasis added) for “just cause,” defined in Section 1012.33(1)(a), Florida Statutes, to include “incompetency”]
The only difference between an annual contract teacher and a teacher on professional services is this. A school administrator can call a annual contract teacher in and say "We don't need you any longer, turn in your keys and please take your peronal belongings". A teacher on professional services can get the same line except that the "We don't need you any longer" is followed by "and this is why".
7:30AM APR 21ST 2010
nice job fred - Your post pretty much smashes this article and JD pointing out that this was profit driven pretty much sums up the whole force behind the "so called" reform.

Here is a quote from a post on the orlando school zone blog.
hstorm writes
Anyone who thinks it is a good sign for the public good when big business vociferously unites behind legislation is mentally handicapped.
12:58PM APR 20TH 2010
When put like that, SB6 doesn't sound so bad to me. Perhaps if teachers (not unions) did have more input, it would of had more support from them.

I know teachers who are already working hard and put in overtime to advance student achievement. I can't see how they'd be against not being rewarded for it.
2:08PM APR 20TH 2010
L Douglas - being paid OT is not the same as having your merit based on 1 test. BTW, what document did you read that makes you think it doesn't sound so bad? Hopefully it wasn't this article.
Just to clarify, the teachers, thru their union tried to have more of a say. When the teachers and their union were blocked out of the solution, all of Florida’s educators, students, parents via PTA’s, school boards association (unanimously) and Superintendents association (unanimously) had to confront it head on and got the job done.
So did the businesses thru their union come up with this garbage of an article, or are you saying the businesses don't agree with their union’s (Associated Industries of Florida, AIF) position on SB6 or this article?
10:34AM APR 20TH 2010
One more question and please be specific
which states have teacher evaluation on student performance and just exactly what is their pay for perfromace plan.
9:19AM APR 20TH 2010
1) And just where was this 900 million coming from other than the teacher’s pockets? You aren't raising taxes are you?
2) Florida abolished tenure in 1982. They now have PSC and are evaluated annually
3) Where are the valid and reliable pre and post tests and what were the benchmarks? Oh, they don't exist and you wonder why educators won't sign up to a blank contract. The notion of trust us is wrong.
4) No one’s evaluation should hinge on a single day event done by others
5) the bill would chase great teacher out because their evaluation would hinge on events they have no control over
6) you cannot recruit folks if you do not value experience or advanced degrees. You cannot recruit folks just because they may make more than the next person but not more than they were making.
7) Advanced degree -allows districts to consider advanced degrees. So how specific is the word “consider”? Considering something and it being accepted by the new decentralized non local Authority are 2 very different things.
8) Teachers unions do not oppose merit pay. They just know the reality that the idiots at the FLDOE can’t be trusted nor are they capable. Look at MAP and STAR. Both are failures and you know who will get merit pay by the zip codes of their students.
9) "Associating teacher evaluations with student performance, and rewarding teachers accordingly, is now all but taken for granted in state after state. It is the degree placed on student learning in the evaluation.
10) Please do not insult us by using a conservative think tank as fact. “says Chester Finn of the Manhattan Institute.”
posted by daveweber on April, 5 2010 2:06 PM Orlando Sentinel

Here is what Diane Ravitch , an education research professor at New York University, has credentials that should impress the most conservative political conservative. She was an undersecretary for education research and improvement for President H.W. Bush. She was a founding member of the conservative Hoover Institution’s Koret task force on education.
In a letter to state legislators, Ravitch urges them simply to not pass the merit pay bill, which already has been approved by the Senate and is up for House consideration this week. One committee is discussing it today. So why has Ravitch apparently gone rogue on teacher merit pay, a mainstay of the conservative philosophy? It’s misguided and won’t work, she says. Among fatal flaws, she says, is the theory that the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test or other student exams will reflect how well teachers taught students.
“Test scores do not identify the most effective teachers,” Ravitch says in the letter, which the Florida Education Association, number one opponent of the proposed merit pay plan, has been quick to spread to the winds.
“I strongly believe that this bill will have very negative consequences for the children of the state of Florida. I believe it will dumb down their education. I believe that it will cause many of your best teachers to leave the profession or the state because this legislation is so profoundly disrespectful towards the education profession,” Ravitch says.
Ravitch makes a number of arguments against basing teacher evaluations and pay on student performance, including that teachers are only partially responsible for student achievement. Home life, study habits, etc, etc all figure in.
What’s worse, she says, the state will become even more test oriented, all of its goals targeted toward test results.
“The students may learn test taking skills, but they don’t learn how to generalize what they have learned to new situations,” she said. “Thus, even when state reading scores go up in response to intensive coaching, national test scores remain flat.”

For those of us with a brain, this is the worst political spin on this subject yet. Not only are they assaulting educators all over the state, now they are assaulting the citizens. Is there no end to the arrogance?
5:29PM APR 20TH 2010
Observer and daveweber are spot on. This article is sheer nonsense - the myths are facts and the facts are myths. It's as if the legislators took the available educational research about what ACTUALLY improves student learning, and wrote their "reform" bill to include the exact opposite. Here is just one study (there are many) - Independent researchers have found that evaluating and paying teachers for test scores is either damaging or irrelevant to improved learning. Unfortunately, even evidence of harm does not seem to affect the growing popularity of such schemes. Policymakers, including U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, should stop promoting this failed approach. This new FairTest fact sheet summarizes the evidence on why payment for test scores has not and will not improve teaching, learning and schools (Fair Test, 2009).

Here's the bottom line - reform was never the motive. Profit was. Key supporters of the bill have financial ties to the testing industry and stand to make LOTS of money if Florida can pass a bill requiring thousands of new tests, all of which have to be developed, produced, and scored (the last two steps on an annual basis, providing a perpetual cash cow). Sweet deal, huh? Unless, of course you're a Florida student whose education suffers because your place of learning becomes nothing more than a test-prep center, or you're a Florida taxpayer who gets to foot the bill for yet ANOTHER unfunded mandate. So our kids get sacrificed on the alter of their greed and our taxes go up, but hey, as long as a few well-connected politicians and their cronies get even richer, it's all good, right? Please. This guy must think we're just all too stupid for words. I think he and his buddies have a big surprise on the way in November.

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