Friday, August 7, 2015

FL: Better Bonus System

Florida recently took another step in trying to hold onto the position of the state with the most bat-guano crazy education policy in the country. Seems Rep. Eric Fresen read himself a book and-- voila!-- a bold new policy was born. Giving teachers bonuses for their old SAT or ACT scores.

This bold choice has prompted considerable discussion about the wisdom of this plan, but I think commentators are barking upward along the wrong arboreal highway.

Instead of talking about how crazy this is, Floridians ought to be asking if it is crazy enough.

After all, other competitors in Education's Wacky Races have come up with innovations like sticking people in the classroom without actual teaching degrees or college degrees. If Fresen wants to make sure that his state has Really Awesome Teachers as evidenced by Really Random Metrics, he can do better.

Let's start with the obvious-- Florida's already using a Big Standardized Test to determine whether eight year olds are on the path to college or not. Let's just piggy-back on that-- if you were a proficient Third Grader, you get a bonus when you become a teacher. If we want something more reliable, we could give a bonus based on your high school GPA. Since Florida really loves its standardized tests, maybe we could use an eye test, or the driver's test.

Or hey-- maybe you were a boy scout. We could give you a $500 bonus for every merit badge you earned. Or if you were a girl scout, a bonus for every box of cookies you sold ($400 for every box of Trefoil, but only $75 for each box of Thin Mints. My dog could sell Thin Mints). For country kids, we can give a bonus for every 4-H blue ribbon won.

Perhaps Florida can reach back further. A bonus for how soon you were walking. A $1000 bonus for every month before your second birthday that you were potty trained.

Or dig deeper. A bonus if your mother birthed you naturally rather than by C-section. How about a bonus based on your apgar score? Perhaps a bonus for speedy fetal development.

In fact, let's get down to it-- offer Florida teachers a bonus based on their parents' SAT or ACT scores. Or on how well trained their dogs are. Or the feng shui in their homes. Or their astrological sign. Or flip a coin. Or just come right out and say, "Hey, TFA temps-- we'll give you a big bunch of money to come here because it will still be cheaper in the long run to hire folks who won't stick around long enough to earn raises or require pensions."

Come on, Florida. If you're going to bring the crazy, really bring it.


  1. Watch this testimony from Andy Goldstein, a Palm Beach public school teacher and parent. He addresses the local school board there about the changes in how teachers are paid there—i.e. veteran teachers with 14 years are paid barely more than rookies: (and this is before Florida instituted the $10,000 bonus for high SAT scorers)

  2. One thing that teachers—or any employees—should beware of is one-time “bonuses” or “stipends”. These are a way to cheap out on paying teachers, as the hourly base salary of teachers does not increase, or to put it technically, this is not reflected as a raise on the salary schedule.

    In Los Angeles, LAUSD kept offering UTLA “one-time bonuses” of this percent, or that percent, and UTLA negotiators wisely insisted that any percentage go on the salary schedule permanently, and be a permanent increase in hourly wages. Ultimately, UTLA teachers received a 10% raise last spring… that being a permanent 10% increase in their hourly and annual pay.

    That’s but one reason that “merit pay” is so appealing… it’s a maddeningly vague, nebulous, constantly changing metric set by the bosses that allows them to be the arbiters of who qualifies, and who does not. When you replace a salary schedule based on experience with the blurry criterion of “merit”, teachers end up getting screwed financially.

  3. This $10,000 bonus is about luring TFA to Florida… because TFA itself supposedly values and recruits higher quality teachers.

    However, with regards to the criterion of “teaching experience,” how does TFA hire its teachers, and upon what criteria do TFA’s corporate reform allies pay its teachers?

    Not based on teaching experience, as TFA requires ZERO experience in the classroom.

    Furthermore, how does Florida and other states dominated by corporate reform pay its teachers — TFA or not?

    Again, not based on teaching experience… as corporate reformers claim that all the “studies” (non-peer-reviewed) from corporate reform think tanks show that years of classroom “experience” do not correlated to “teacher quality.”

    However, check out this job listing BELOW:

    Here you see that, unlike “TFA teachers” and the criterion of teaching experience, TFA DOES demand that “TFA lobbyists” come onto the job with 7 years (!!!) of lobbying experience, and the more prior lobbying experience that a TFA lobbyist brings to the job, the more TFA pays that lobbyist.

    On Mercedes Schneider's blog, Mitchell Robinson found this actual TFA job listing, and writes about this contradiction with TFA and what it “values.”

    Again, unlike “TFA teachers”, to work as a “TFA lobbyist,” the job listing says that prospective TFA lobbyists need…

    — “at least 7 years of work experience, with at least three years experience on Capitol Hill”.

    Again, unlike “TFA teachers” and teaching experience, pay for “TFA lobbyists” is based on years of lobbying experience (something absolutely “verboten” in corporate reform… as studies — non-peer-reviewed — from corporate reform think tanks show that “experience” on the job.does not correlated to “teacher quality”… just “lobbyist quality”, apparently.)

    — “Salary for this position is competitive and depends on prior experience.”

    “What does it say about your organization’s values when you
    require 7 years of experience for a lobbying position,
    but require zero years of experience for teachers in
    charge of classrooms full of young children?”

    ” .. ”

    “Perhaps its time for TFA to update their mission statement from this:

    ” *** OUR MISSION is to enlist, develop, and mobilize as many as possible of our nation’s most promising future leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational equity and excellence. ***

    “… to this:

    ” *** OUR MISSION is to lobby, pressure and persuade as many as possible of our nation’s most powerful political leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational privatization and profit. ***

    “Because, based on what your organization actually says
    and does, this is what you truly value.”

  4. Jack Covey is exactly right about TFA and I would like to add that 29 year old former TFA member Rebecca Fishman Lipsey and Gary Chartrand the man responsible for beginning TFA to Florida both sit on the state board.

  5. How about a bonus for being breastfed at least 6 months?

  6. Has anybody done a study of the college grads who go into TFA? How many actually scored in the top 20 percentile on their college exam? This is probably going to be a great fizzle in the end.