This year, the Florida Legislature has passed several pieces of education reform legislation which AIF has supported through session and reported on to you. One key piece of these reforms has been Senate Bill 6, by Senator John Thrasher, which aims to overhaul the teaching profession in Florida, particularly in terms of how teachers are evaluated and compensated. Under the bill, districts are required to adopt a new performance appraisal system and pay plan for teachers, both of which are tied to student learning gains. Lifetime contracts for teachers would be banned. (This would impact new teachers from entering the field.) AIF supports these measures because they create a more business-like approach to teacher pay and builds a system that allows the BEST teachers to have a CAREER in the classroom!
Furthermore, AIF supports SB 6 because it creates a career path that keeps teachers in the classroom, as well as its importance for the federal "Race to the Top" competition. The two states that won in "round one" already have similar laws on the books. Many of you pay your employees, or are paid yourself, based on performance. If businesses produced a product that didn’t perform, it wouldn’t sell well in the marketplace. And, if Florida’s education system doesn’t produce a “product” in the form of a graduate that can read, write, and compute, then our state won’t fare well in attracting and retaining companies or winning the increasingly global competition for jobs.
SB 6 will generate a way to keep good teachers in the classroom by building a career path based on achievement, rather than the current career path that offers salary growth when good teachers leave the classroom to take a promotion to administration.
Key Points of the Bill:
- Performance Appraisals - School districts must adopt performance appraisals for instructional personnel and school administrators that differentiate among four levels of performance: unsatisfactory, needs improvement, effective, and highly effective. Effective July 1, 2014, more than 50 percent of each employee’s performance appraisal must be based upon student learning gains.
- Compensation - The bill requires school districts to adopt a salary schedule that compensates employees based solely upon performance appraisals and prohibits the use of service years or degrees held when setting the salary schedule.
- Contracts - The bill ends the use of professional service contracts for classroom teachers hired on or after July 1, 2010. For classroom teachers hired on or after July 1, 2010, the bill requires one probationary contract and authorizes up to four annual contracts. Such teachers must be designated effective or highly effective on two out of the three preceding year’s performance appraisals in order to receive an annual contract beyond the fifth year.
- Teacher Quality Accountability - The bill establishes a performance fund that school districts and charter schools must use to implement end-of-course assessments, as well as teacher contract and compensation reforms, and creates a narrow exemption. Noncompliance with these requirements results in the withholding of performance funds, which is an amount equal to five percent of the total state, local, and federal funds allocated to the district by the Florida Education Finance Program.
- Educator Certification and Preparation - The bill requires out-of-state certified teachers to demonstrate subject area mastery; requires temporary certificate-holders to demonstrate subject area mastery within one year of employment; removes lifetime certificate renewal for National Board certified teachers; and conditions certificate renewal upon effective or highly effective performance on four out of five performance appraisals during the previous certification period. The bill conditions continued approval of initial teacher preparation programs upon demonstration that program graduates produce student learning gains.
The bill is awaiting action by Governor Crist, who has not yet decided on his support. Hearing from the business community is important to the Governor, so please call or email him to express your support for Senate Bill 6, and ask him to sign the bill. He has just a few days left in which to act on the bill, so please call today!