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Officials Revise Teacher-Pay Scheme

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Tampa, Fla.--Responding to a flood of criticism about the merit-pay plan they designed last year, Florida's state legislators have made several major changes in it this summer that may require the 28,000 teachers who have applied for the program to reapply.

The legislature dropped a previous requirement that all applicants for merit pay possess a master's degree.

Under the new rules, only teachers in fields in which no competency exam is developed by Feb. 15, 1985, must have master's degrees to qualify. The University of South Florida at Tampa is developing teacher-competency tests for as many disciplines as possible; the tests will be administered in the spring.

That change came in response to a poll conducted by the Tampa Trib-une that found that about 31 of the state's 48 "Teachers of the Year" for 1983 were ineligible for merit pay because they lacked a master's degree. (See Education Week, May 16, 1984.)

In addition, the requirement that teachers have no unexcused absences for two of the last three years was also dropped and the number of required classroom observations was reduced from three to one.

Application Process Moot

Those changes may make the original application process moot, according to several state officials, and all of the teachers who applied for merit pay last spring may have to reapply.

Gov. Robert Graham is expected to make a recommendation on the reapplication issue by late August. The state board of education will meet Sept. 20 to make final decisions on the new merit-pay process.

"Meritorious" teachers will be awarded $3,000 stipends. To earn that award, candidates must have four years of teaching experience with at least two years in Florida schools, pass the competency test, and receive a satisfactory evaluation from their principals based on at least one classroom observation.

Florida teachers, however, will also be eligible for merit-pay plans developed by individual school districts. About $20 million has been set aside for that purpose.

--Patti Breckenridge

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