Teacher merit pay plan on path to being approved by Florida House

But according to House Speaker Larry Cretul, Faye can safely be counted as a "no" vote, since he doesn't intend to allow any amendments to the bill, since that would require bringing the bill back before the Senate again, which only narrowly passed SB 6 by a 21-17 margin last month.

A provision of the legislation would set aside 5 percent of a district's spending to pay for the merit pay system, leading one critic - W.C. Gentry from Duval County - to challenge where those funds would come from.

“Where does the 5 percent come from?” Gentry asked, saying it would cost Duval $40 million. “Who pays for it? Where is this pot of money?"

During the middle of yesterday's debate, the Florida Education Association, fierce critics of the reform measures, released a letter written by  Diane Ravitch , who worked at the department of Education under George H. W. Bush, and has just written a new book in which she rails against all of the testing going on now in American education, called The Death and Life of the Great American School System. In her letter, Ravitch writes:

Our nation has now had eight consecutive years of rising reading scores at the state level, yet the national scores for eighth grade students have not budged from 1998-2009. The reason for the discrepancy is that students are learning test-taking skills, but they are unable to understand complex materials or to demonstrate their progress on a test that is not the state test.

Test scores do not identify the most effective teachers. A teacher who produces big score gains one year may produce none the next year, depending on which students happen to be in his or her class.

The legislation now under consideration will not improve education in Florida. It will harm kids and their teachers.

I urge you to stop and reflect. The research on teacher effectiveness does not support the policies of SB 6/HB 7189. Please defeat this legislation.

Again, passage by the House is expected as early as tomorrow.  Governor Crist has indicated he will sign the legislation once it comes to his desk.

Hundreds of teachers packed the House Education Policy Council meeting room in Tallahassee yesterday for an eight-hour hearing on HB  7189, the House companion to the John Thrasher led SB 6 that would make it easier for experienced teachers to be fired and base more of their salaries on student test scores.

The bills have clearly received the most attention and (in some quarters) scorn of the session, as it further attempts to place standards on teachers that many in the education field believe is far too heavy handed and not "teacher friendly."

One of the arguments that supporters of the controversial legislation point to is the state's abysmal high-school graduation rates.  As one critics said yesterday, as reported today in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune:

"I don't know how you can be satisfactory and have 60 percent of your high school students unable to read at grade level," said Arthur Rothkopf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the numerous business groups supporting the legislation.

Rothkopf said the legislation is "squarely aligned with mainstream" education reforms around the country.

The legislation would require that by July 1, 2014, school districts would have to implement pay plans based on a teacher-appraisal system. The bill would not take tenure away from current teachers or lower their salaries, but would put new teachers on one year of probation, followed by four one-year contracts. After five years in the profession, teachers would have to be graded "effective" or "highly effective" to keep their jobs.

The  bill passed 12-5 in committee, though one Republican who voted "yay", Hillsborough District 47 Representative Faye Culp says she will vote against the bill when it comes up for final passage later this week unless come changes are made, according to the St. Pete Times:

Rep. Faye Culp, a GOP lawmaker representing a moderate Tampa suburban district, sided with Democrats on for a handful of amendments that sought to protect teacher certification and reward teachers who seek higher degrees. She eventually voted for the bill, but warned: "If it does not change, I will be voting no on the House floor."

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