Florida is a pioneer in the effort to base teacher salaries on student performance and give those teachers with the best results the highest raises, and a bill creating a sweeping new merit pay system was the first legislation Gov. Rick Scott signed into law in March.
Merit pay is a reform pillar of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the Foundation for Excellence in Education he founded. Bush pushed for the idea while in Florida and is now touting the benefits of performance-based pay nationwide. the idea is to reward teachers who get the best results or most improvement from their students — just as the private sector would pay for performance.
The concept has district-level support too, such as Hillsborough County Public Schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia, herself a former teacher. Elia believes testing students’ knowledge before and after a course will reveal how effective a teacher is.
Data-based analysis of teacher performance is here to stay. Hillsborough County is using a $100 million Gates Foundation grant to design a new system to evaluate and train teachers. Florida won a $700 million federal Race To The Top grant to design a similar statewide evaluation system — which lawmakers now require.
Teachers and their unions object to basing teacher pay on the results of standardized exams designed to test something else entirely, but many teacher unions signed on to the Race to The Top grant.