Recruitment & Retention

Fla. Ready to Demand Bonuses Based on Test Scores

By Bess Keller — February 21, 2006 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Florida education officials are moving ahead with what would be the nation’s most far-reaching plan to tie teacher bonuses to improved student achievement, despite financial uncertainties and opposition from the state teachers’ union.

The plan, which the state school board was expected to approve this week, would mandate that the top 10 percent of Florida teachers for delivering improved student scores on state tests get bonuses of at least 5 percent of their salary, starting next school year.

Ten percent of the teachers whose subjects are not covered by states tests would also receive bonuses under the proposal. But districts have until the 2007-08 school year to determine how those payouts would be made, including what measures of “student learning gains” would be used. The measures, however, must go beyond individual classroom tests, state officials say.

“We want to reward those teachers who are the most effective in the classroom,” said Cheri Pierson Yecke, who oversees K-12 public schools under Commissioner John L. Winn. “Our plan is more aggressive than any pay-for-performance plan in any other state or city.”

The proposal is indeed aggressive as measured by the number of teachers it affects and its singular focus on year-to-year test-score progress.

The Houston school board, for instance, recently approved bonuses of $2,000 for teachers whose student gains are greater than the average on state or district tests. But Houston has about 12,000 teachers compared with Florida’s 160,000. (“Some Florida Districts Opting Not to Pay Out Performance Bonuses,” Aug. 10, 2005.)

Other recent pay changes, such as in Denver and several Minnesota districts, use scores on external tests as only one factor in rewarding teachers. At the same time, Denver’s new framework is far more sweeping than Florida’s because it rebuilds the traditional pay plan on the basis of teachers’ knowledge, skill, and effectiveness. Across the country, teachers mostly get raises for years of experience and graduate credits; the Florida bonus plan leaves that basic structure untouched. (“Denver Voters Pave Way for Incentive Pay,” Nov. 9, 2005.)

No State Aid

The proposed new rules in Florida flesh out a 2001 law that calls for performance pay linked to student test scores. While every district had a plan for bonuses, more than a third of the 67 school systems paid out no money last year under it, according to state figures.

No state aid was earmarked for the bonuses, though districts spent more than $12 million on them last year—a tiny fraction of the total compensation for teachers statewide. State officials say they will ask the legislature for a $55 million annual boost to the school aid budget to help districts pay for the bonuses, starting with the coming school year.

Although the new rules would require that 10 percent of teachers be rewarded, districts would be urged to raise the percentage. In the case of teachers whose subjects are covered by state tests, top performers would be determined statewide so that the proportion of bonus winners in a district could be less than 10 percent. A district, however, could choose to pay bonuses to its own top 10 percent.

Teachers’ unions have contended that with no new money coming from the state, bonuses eat into across-the-board raises in a state that already ranks in the bottom half for teacher salaries. In 2003-04, teachers in Florida made on average $40,600 and teachers nationally, $46,600.

Officials of the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union affiliated with both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, argue that the overall effect of the plan would be to discourage teachers from coming to and staying in Florida. State officials maintain that the bonuses will help address a continuing teacher shortage.

Union Challenge

Citing the expense as one of many reasons the plan is a bad idea, the FEA last week filed an administrative challenge to the proposed rules. The union said state education department officials exceeded their authority when they came up with a statewide ranking of all teachers whose subjects are covered by state tests and determined that the top 10 percent would get bonuses.

Top of the Class

Since 2002, the state has required districts to pay teachers for their performance, but proposed rules would force them to pay out millions more.

Outstanding teachers would receive a supplement of at least 5 percent of their base salary.

Outstanding teachers would be identified in two ways:

a. The top 10 percent of teachers whose subjects are covered by state tests would be identified by the state at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, as measured by student learning gains assessed by the test. Districts would have to reward each of the outstanding teachers with a supplement equal to 5 percent of their base salary, provided that they were not subject to discipline by the district.

b. Other teachers would be identified and named as outstanding by their districts. Districts would develop a system for identifying those teachers, who would also be rewarded with a supplement equal to 5 percent of their base salary, provided that they were not subject to discipline by the district.

SOURCE: Florida Department of Education

“It’s silly and demeaning to rate teachers using only the poorly defined ‘learning gains’ on the [state test],” Tom Ford, the president of the FEA, said in a statement. “It’s like assessing the value of a basketball coach solely on how well his team shoots jump shots.”

But Bryan C. Hassel, a co-director of the consulting firm Public Impact, in Chapel Hill, N.C., who has studied teacher-pay policy, said because the amounts involved are relatively small, it’s worth experimenting, even if the picture of a teacher’s effectiveness is imperfect.

“It’s a very promising program because it looks at improvement over time, … and it gives districts and their unions some flexibility to figure out how to make it work in the local setting,” he said

Yet that flexibility may not be enough to produce the conditions needed by a district and its teachers’ union to alter substantially the way teachers are paid—the goal of top officials for the Miami-Dade County schools, according to spokesman Joseph Garcia.

“Our interest was to put performance pay on the table” during upcoming contract negotiations, he said. “But I don’t know that the union will be willing to discuss it as a concept given the specific proposal they are fighting against.”

A version of this article appeared in the February 22, 2006 edition of Education Week as Fla. Ready to Demand Bonuses Based on Test Scores

Events

School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Recruitment & Retention Retention Is the Missing Ingredient in Special Education Staffing
Many special education teachers switch to other teaching positions. Districts are exploring ways to keep them in the needed role.
9 min read
A teacher putting her arms around her students, more students than she can manage herself. A shortage of Special Education teachers.
Nicole Xu for Education Week
Recruitment & Retention Signing Ceremonies Honor Students Who Want to Be Teachers
In a growing number of schools across the country, student-athletes aren't the only ones in the spotlight. Future teachers are, too.
7 min read
The advisers of Baldwin County High School’s chapter of Future Teachers of Alabama pose with the seniors who are committed to a career in education in April 2024. From left to right, they are: Chantelle McPherson, Diona Davis, Molly Caruthers, Jameia Brooks, Whitney Jernigan, Derriana Bishop, Vickie Locke, and Misty Byrd.
The advisers of Baldwin County High School’s chapter of Future Teachers of Alabama pose with seniors who are committed to a career in education in April 2024. From left to right: Chantelle McPherson, Diona Davis, Molly Caruthers, Jameia Brooks, Whitney Jernigan, Derriana Bishop, Vickie Locke, and Misty Byrd.
Courtesy of Baldwin County High School
Recruitment & Retention Why Your Next Teacher Job Fair Probably Won't Be Virtual
Post-pandemic, K-12 job fairs have largely pivoted to in-person events. But virtual fairs still have a place.
4 min read
Facility and prospective applicants gather at William Penn School District's teachers job fair in Lansdowne, Pa., Wednesday, May 3, 2023. As schools across the country struggle to find teachers to hire, more governors are pushing for pay increases and bonuses for the beleaguered profession.
Facility and prospective applicants gather at William Penn School District's in-person teachers job fair in Lansdowne, Pa., Wednesday, May 3, 2023.
Matt Rourke/AP
Recruitment & Retention How Effective Mentors Strengthen Teacher Recruitment and Retention
Rudy Ruiz, founder of the Edifying Teachers network, shares advice on what quality mentorship entails for teachers of color.
3 min read
A teacher helps students during a coding lesson at Sutton Middle School in Atlanta on Feb. 12, 2020.
A teacher helps students during a coding lesson at Sutton Middle School in Atlanta on Feb. 12, 2020.
Allison Shelley/EDUimages