Monday, March 07, 2011


SB 736- Race to the top for Student Success

·         This bill implements Florida’s successful Race to the Top application, using the requirements of the Race to the Top grant and the grant’s timeline for implementation, which 65 of Florida’s 67 school districts have already agreed to.

·         The bill focuses on three components of instructional quality:

o   Revising the broken, current system of evaluations and creating a new, robust evaluation system for instructional personnel and school administrators.

o   Establishing a new salary schedule tied to a revised evaluation system to reward our teachers and school administrators who help students learn.

o   Modernizing our instructional workforce by eliminating tenure for new hires.

·         Teacher and school administrator evaluations must base at least 50% of the evaluation on student learning growth measured by state assessments or end of course exams.

·         School districts would create two salary schedules for teachers. Current teachers would remain on the same salary schedule that they are on now with the option to move to the new performance salary schedule established for the 2014-2015 school year.

·         New teachers hired in 2014-2015 and thereafter would be compensated under a performance salary schedule, in which they would earn salary increases based upon their performance evaluations, including what students learn and how much they learn. Additionally, teachers can earn more for teaching in critical-need schools or areas, such as special education.

·         Beginning with new teachers hired in 2011-2012, teachers are eligible for annual contracts, with renewal tied to their performance evaluations. For example, teachers who receive unsatisfactory evaluations for 2 out of 3 years would not be eligible for a new annual contract. New teachers would not receive tenure.



























The Bill in Brief


Evaluation of School Personnel


·         The bill provides local flexibility by allowing each district to construct their evaluation plans.  The Department of Education will approve each plan.

·         Evaluation plans will require the inclusion of performance data from multiple sources including an outlet for parental feedback when appropriate.

·         Teachers would receive an evaluation on one of four levels, and school districts have the freedom to create more levels:

o   Highly effective

o   Effective

o   Needs improvement or, for teachers in their first 3 years of teaching or in the first year of a new teaching assignment, Developing

o   Unsatisfactory

·         School personnel must be evaluated at least once a year.  First-year teachers will be evaluated twice in their first year of instruction.

·         Evaluations must base at least 50% of the results on student learning growth measured by state assessments, end-of-course exams, or district-selected assessments based on 3 years of student data.

·         Like many professionals who face periodic evaluations that measure the quality of their work, teachers should also be evaluated based on the success of their students.

·         For those classroom teachers who teach in grades or subjects whose students are assessed under the FCAT, the Department of Education is tasked with adopting a student growth formula that would measure a student’s learning outcome based on the student’s prior performance and discounting factors outside of the teacher’s control, such as a student’s attendance, disciplinary records, disability, or English language proficiency. Accordingly, this bill does not penalize teachers whose students start the school year below grade level nor does the bill reward only teachers who have the highest-performing students.

·         For other non-FCAT subjects or grade levels, school districts would develop student learning growth thresholds with assistance from the Department of Education if needed.

·         By the 2014-2015 school year, school districts must administer end-of-course assessments to gauge mastery of the content, subject to the Commissioner of Education identifying methods or item banks to assist districts in developing the assessments.


Performance Pay


·         Beginning with new teachers hired for the 2014-2015 school year and for current teachers who want to be compensated under the new performance salary schedule, teacher salary increases would be based on their performance evaluations, including the performance of their students.

·         Teachers who receive an Effective or Highly Effective evaluation rating would receive a raise, and that raise would be permanently rolled into their base salary.

·         Teachers could also earn more based on teaching in critical-need schools or areas, such as special education, math, or science.


Teacher Contracts


·         New teacher hires would receive an initial 1 year probationary contract, followed by subsequent annual contracts.  During the probationary contract, teachers can be dismissed without cause and may resign without repercussion.

·         All teachers who currently have teacher tenure would retain their professional service contract unless the school district terminates their contract based on just cause. The bill clarifies that “just cause” includes two consecutive years of Unsatisfactory evaluations.

·         Each annual contract would be based on a teacher’s evaluations.  Teachers who receive an Unsatisfactory evaluation in 2 of the previous 3 years, or Needs Improvement 3 of the past 5 years, would not be eligible for a new contract.

·         The Department of Education must annually report each district’s percentage of teachers and administrators in each performance level.


Other Personnel Decisions


·         A principal can refuse the transfer of educational personnel by the district superintendent unless the teacher is rated Effective or Highly Effective.

·         Promotions would be determined primarily on an individual’s demonstrated effectiveness.

·         If a district must implement a workforce reduction, such decisions will be based on performance evaluations.



Background / current situation


Since the A+ Plan was launched in 1999, Florida has made steady increases in education.  By implementing performance measures, grading schools on a scale of A – F, and funding strategies that create an incentive for success, Florida has experienced an extraordinary turnaround in our schools. While Education Week’s Quality Counts recognizes Florida as 5th in the nation in education quality, 61 percent of our tenth-graders are not reading on grade level. Additionally, Florida is competing globally, and our students need the skills to succeed in the ever-changing global economy. In order to prepare our students, Florida needs to modernize its teaching workforce by rewarding our best teachers, identifying and providing assistance to our teachers who need help in perfecting their craft, and suggesting alternative careers for those individuals who do not belong in the teaching profession.  Teachers want their students to succeed, and this legislation would give them the recognition and the rewards they deserve for helping our students to learn.


Current Law




The current evaluation system is broken. Although the law requires student performance to be the primary component in the evaluation of teachers and school administrators, the reality is that most teachers and school administrators are evaluated based on a completely subjective evaluation. The current system tells our teachers very little about how to improve, fails to recognize our best teachers, and hides those who need to seek an alternative profession. The Race to the Top grant is a tacit admission for the need to completely revise our evaluation system.


Performance Pay


Current law provides that a “portion” of a teacher’s or school administrator’s pay must be based on performance. Additionally, Florida enacted the Merit Award Program (MAP), a voluntary merit pay system with additional state funds to implement the program. Nonetheless, the reality is most teachers are paid on the old “steps and lanes” approach to salaries, where the primary criterion for receiving additional pay appears to be that you are a year older. As a result, performance pay is a small percentage of a teacher’s pay, if it factors in at all. The MAP program, enacted in response to criticisms that prior merit pay programs were too prescriptive, is only used in 3 districts. The remaining 64 school districts turned down extra funds from the state. The Race to the Top grant recognizes that performance pay is critical in attracting and retaining a professional teaching workforce by requiring that the most significant gains in salary are based on performance.




Current law requires school districts to award a professional service contract to a teacher after as few as 3 years of teaching unless the school district “charges” an employee with unsatisfactory performance. The process for firing an ineffective teacher is a lengthy and complicated one, in which a missed step or date can automatically result in a renewal of the contract. As a result, it may take 2 years or more to terminate an ineffective teacher. This leaves students, who are regressing with an ineffective teacher, no hope or options. While the professional service contract may have been originally enacted to protect teachers from the arbitrary decisions of administrators, today’s professional service contract appears to serve one purpose; it “protects” ineffective teachers at the expense of students.



Point – counterpoint


This is just like SB 6.  Why is the Legislature punishing teachers? 

This bill is not SB 6. It allows teachers on the current “steps and lanes” salary schedule to remain on that salary schedule. The bill does not punish teachers; it rewards our best teachers, identifies our teachers who need assistance so that school districts can give them help, and removes teachers who should not be in the teaching profession. The bill is for our students—giving them high quality teachers.


The bill ties teacher pay directly to student test scores according to an unknown 'value-added' formula.

Florida’s successful Race to the Top application requires the Department of Education to establish, in concert with education stakeholders such as teachers and school administrators, a fair and transparent student growth model that takes into consideration unique student characteristics, challenges, and other factors that affect student performance. Under the grant, school districts are required to measure student growth using the state learning growth model and to make the performance of students count towards 50 percent of a classroom teacher’s evaluation. Finally, the grant requires school districts to implement a compensation system for all teachers that ties the most significant gains in salary to the evaluation. 65 of the 67 school districts agreed with these requirements.


SB 736 implements that agreement. Teachers will know about the value-added formula because they will be consulted on its development and it will be established before the school year even begins. In fact, the Department of Education has already established an advisory group of teachers and school administrators to work on the value-added formula.


The bill requires school districts to establish a performance salary schedule for new teachers and school administrators hired on or after July 1, 2014. These individuals would earn salary increases based on their overall evaluation, which includes what students learn and how much they learn. Additionally, teachers can earn more for teaching in critical-need schools or areas, such as special education. The traditional salary schedule pays teachers for years of experience, irrespective of whether that experience benefits students. The longer a teacher has been in the system, the more they get paid, while beginning teachers may have to wait years to see their salaries increase at all. Nonetheless, the bill allows current teachers to remain on the current salary schedule. Current teachers have the option to be paid on the basis of their effectiveness, but they do not have to choose this option.


Like many professionals who face periodic evaluations that measure the quality of their work, teachers and school administrators should also be evaluated based on the success of their students, which is why they are there—to help students learn. 


School Districts can’t afford to develop End of Course exams to evaluate all of their teachers and students.

The school districts would not have to administer these assessments until the 2014-2015 school year. The Department of Education must develop item banks and identify other methods to help districts select their end-of-course assessments. The requirement would be phased in as the Commissioner of Education identifies methods to help select their assessments. Finally, Florida’s successful application for the Race to the Top grant provides funding for this purpose.


SB 736 allows all new teachers regardless of being rated 'effective' and 'highly effective' to be fired at the end of the year without any due process or just cause.

Under the bill, a school principal’s evaluation is affected by the principal’s ability to recruit and retain “effective” and “highly effective” teachers and to help teachers improve to the “effective” and “highly effective” levels. Accordingly, it is in the principal’s best interest to have the best instructional workforce, as it affects the principal’s evaluation and pay. Only those teachers who are consistently rated in the lowest performing levels based on 3 years of student data should be concerned about retention.


The Bill prohibits school districts from rewarding many teachers who earn advanced degrees.

Under the bill, teachers will still receive supplements for advanced degrees within their area of certification in accordance with their collective bargaining agreement. The advanced degree provisions only apply to instructional personnel or school administrators hired on or after July 1, 2011. Therefore, teachers who are currently employed would still receive funds for advanced degrees in accordance with their bargaining agreement. The bill allows school districts to award funds for these advanced degrees, despite the fact that research studies indicate that advanced degrees have little or a negative impact on student learning.


Increases the number of tests that must be developed and given to every student every year and shifts millions of scarce dollars to pay for these new tests.

Florida’s Race to the Top agreement requires school districts to use district-selected assessments, to measure student learning growth for content areas and grade levels not assessed on state-required assessments. The bill implements the agreement but also provides additional flexibility to school districts by tying the requirement to select these assessments by the 2014-2015 school year to the Commissioner of Education’s obligation to identify question item banks, shared district assessments, or other methods to help districts prepare an assessment. In other words, if the Commissioner is unable to assist school districts in the development or selection of assessments, the school districts do not have to administer the new assessments. Florida’s successful application for the Race to the Top grant provides funding for this purpose. Finally, the requirement for school districts to have these local assessments has been in current law for over 10 years.


This reform does not provide any means of funding the new performance pay plan...except to cut or freeze existing salaries

The bill does not cause existing salaries to be frozen or cut. Both salary schedules would be collectively bargained. The bill does not require an additional funding source for the new performance pay plan because the teachers and school administrators in the future that are paid under the new plan would not be paid under the old plan.


SB 736 gives Tallahassee more control over our local schools.     

The bill provides more flexibility to the school districts than the Race to the Top grant. School districts asked to be grant recipients and are receiving funds under the grant to implement the changes required in evaluation, compensation, and employment. School districts will still collectively bargain salary schedules, develop their evaluation systems, and determine whom to hire and terminate, with the exception of the most consistently ineffective teachers.


Are there any provisions in the bill for professional development?  Mentoring?  Peer evaluation and review?

Yes, the bill authorizes school districts to use peer evaluation from trained evaluators as part of a teacher’s or school administrator’s evaluation to help employees improve their instruction. Current law and funds appropriated to the school district provide for professional development and mentoring. The bill retains local control over the professional development practices at the school level.


Does the bill empower principals to evaluate teachers constructively or just fire them if their students perform poorly?

Under the bill, a school principal’s effectiveness as an administrator under his or her evaluation is affected by the principal’s ability to recruit and retain “effective” and “highly effective” teachers and to help teachers improve to the “effective” and “highly effective” levels. The principal’s evaluation affects his or her pay. Accordingly, the principal has a vested interest in having the best instructional workforce.



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