Saturday, November 16, 2019

FL: Yet Another Bad Plan To Not Increase Teacher Pay

So previously there was the Best and the Brightest program, which awarded teacher bonuses based on student test scores and the teacher's own SAT scores. From high school. It had a variety of problems (above and beyond the basic boneheadedness of the idea) and the new governor, Ron DeSantis found it "confusing."

Yes, you can still buy swampland in Florida
This newer, betterer plan comes along with the DeSantis First Year bump-- $600 million intended to increase the minimum salary for teachers to $47,500. Average starting pay in Florida is a hair under $38,000, which raises a whole bunch of questions about how, exactly, this is going to play out. Will some Florida teachers start at $47,500 and then stay there for the next ten years of their careers? Does the state and district pay for these increases by cutting from the top of the pay scale? And as with all of these minimum pay proposals, I look forward to negotiations between the state and local school boards over just how much everyone is going to kick in. After all, a local board member can logically conclude that they might as well lowball salaries and let the state pick up the slack. And what happens down the road when the state decides it doesn't want to fund the bonuses any more, and teachers suddenly get a big pay cut? And what kind of dope thinks that offering a big bump for the bottom of the scale will somehow make teachers want to come and stay for years-- oh. Never mind. This is one of those reformster burn and churn we-don't-0want-them-staying-long-enough-to-cause-trouble ideas, isn't it.

But on to the bonus plan.

The short form analysis is, it sucks.

First, it's a bonus. Teachers don't need bonuses. You can't get a house loan based on your bonus. You can't plan a future on a bonus.

Second, it is not, technically speaking, a teacher bonus. It is a building bonus. Here's the Miami Herald explanation, which was as good as any I saw:

The bonus plan is divided into three tiers: Tier 1 is for schools that earn 85% or greater of the total possible points or gain six or more points in their A-F school grading calculation. Tier 2 includes schools gaining three to five points in their school grade and tier 3 schools gained one to two points in their school grade.

Teachers in Tier 1 schools would receive up to $3,700, $1,750 in Tier 2 schools and $500 in Tier 3 schools. Principals would earn $5,000 at Tier 1 schools, $2,500 at Tier 2 schools and $1,250 in Tier 3 schools. Teachers and principals at Title I schools, or schools with a high number of students from low-income families, would get double those amounts.

So, a couple of things jump out.

One is that once again, bonuses are tied to test scores, which would be great if test scores were indicative of anything having to do with academic achievement. Instead, this looks in the face of a nationally decried over-emphasis on high-stakes testing and attaches more stakes to it. It actually offers schools bribe money to make the problem worse.

But on top of that, we know what test scores are actually tied to-- the socio-economic status of students. I suppose the Title I doubling factor is supposed to compensate for that somehow, but that's like an admission that your system is messed up from the start. Yes, growth is a big factor, but that's not really a help, unless your goal was to incentivize schools to identify students whose scores might be shifted enough to make a difference and then test prep the living daylights out of those children.

Just imagine being the principal at a Tier 3 school, trying to recruit great teachers and knowing that they've already looked at your "bonus" history so they are interviewing with you only as a last resort. It's an inequitable system, and that will drive people to move around and--oh.

This is, of course, just the governor's proposal at the moment, so we have yet to see what Florida's crackerjack legislature will do in response. Maybe it will be awesome enough to earn them a bonus.

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