Tying Teacher Pay to Student Perfomance

Education reform is once again at the top of the Florida legislature's agenda. Republican leaders want to bring back their proposal to tie teacher pay to student performance.

It was a bold rejection of a controversial overhaul of the public education system: a plan to pay and even retain teachers based on how well their students perform on the F-CAT.

Former Governor Charlie Crist called it unfair to special ed teachers, but Friday, the Senate Education Committee got to work on reviving the plan.

Parent Melissa Barton told the committee her son's a special ed student, and he's doing just fine in private school.

“He's not the only child with Asperger's Syndrome in his class, but yet, they're all succeeding in leaps and bounds,” she said. “We're looking at a college prep school here, we're not talking about just a regular private school, so what is the different formula they're using that teachers in public schools aren't?”

The republicans behind the overhaul say it's as simple as holding teachers accountable, keeping the good ones and getting rid of the bad.

Only 10 months ago the GOP majority here at the capitol muscled through their education reform bill in the dead of night. This time around, they're determined to avoid a repeat, in part by giving teachers a bigger voice.

Elementary school teacher Megan Allen traveled all the way from Tampa to address the committee. She has a big problem with basing teacher pay solely on test scores.

“I think we need to be using multiple metrics,” she said. “I think we need to be looking at ways that the teacher can become a learner and fine-tune their craft and increase their performance in the classroom, which will increase our student gains.”

But, just how to do that is an open question, and Committee Chairman Stephen Wise says there are no easy answers.

“We see those kinds of issues coming in and you're going 'holy mackerel, what are we going to do with all that'?”

For now, the goal is to give everything a fair hearing, a lesson learned in 2010 that could well make 2011 the year for reform.

Lawmakers plan to hold more hearings before a final merit bill is voted on during this spring's legislative session. Almost all agree one of the thorniest issues is bound to be a proposal to eliminate teacher tenure.

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