Gov. Mitch Daniels, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and courageous state legislators are advancing a bold platform to transform the quality of education in Indiana. Landmark legislation passed by the Florida Legislature last week might provide a path for even bolder reform of the teaching profession.
Under the Florida law, for the first time in Floridas history, teachers will be evaluated and rewarded based on how much their students learn.
Starting July 1, tenure for new teachers is effectively ended. All new teachers will receive a one-year probationary contract. After the probationary year, new teachers will receive annual contracts, subject to renewal.
The bill also ends the policy of last in, first out – making merit the basis of retention. Seniority will not be the only measurement for retention, and no longer will new teachers be the first to receive pink slips when layoffs are necessary. All teachers – from experienced teachers to educators entering the classroom for the first time – will be assessed and paid based on their effectiveness in teaching.
Currently, annual teacher evaluations are completely subjective and very, very few teachers receive negative reviews. For the first time, an objective measure of teacher effectiveness – standardized tests that measure student learning – will be part of annual evaluations. Fifty percent of teacher evaluations will be based on what matters most – students knowledge and skills. Essentially, do students know more at the end of the school year than they knew at the beginning? This common-sense evaluation system provides a healthy balance of student learning data and valuable peer feedback.
Teachers will be evaluated as highly effective, effective, needs improvement and unsatisfactory based on their performance. Teachers who need improvement will be identified for professional development. Teachers who receive an unsatisfactory evaluation for two out of three years will not have their contract renewed.
The bill establishes a fairer salary system, improving Floridas ability to attract and retain excellent teachers. The current salary structure is blind to effectiveness; pay increases are largely based on years of service. Teachers who are effective and highly effective will earn raises – not one-time bonuses but annual increases that build their base salary.
Teachers who take the toughest jobs, such as positions in inner-city schools, will earn a bonus, as will teachers of high-demand subjects, like math and science. Higher salaries for these positions will attract talent and energy to our greatest challenges – preparing all students for college and careers in the 21st-century economy.
The law is based on a bedrock belief that all students can learn. That core principle is backed by decades of research that confirms students with great teachers learn more – up to four times as much – than students with ineffective teachers.
Florida is debunking the myth that some kids cant learn because of lifes circumstances. The state has proven that a quality education and great teachers can overcome the obstacles of poverty, language barriers and broken homes. Now, Florida is forging the path for modernizing the teaching profession.
If Florida can do it, Indiana can and it must. These common-sense reforms will produce a seismic shift in the focus of education – from system- to student-centered.