Mar 18, 2011

StudentsFirst applauds Florida’s passage of breakthrough education reform legislation


Yesterday, the Florida House of Representatives cleared the way for the Student Success and Teacher Quality Bill to become law. Legislators passed the bill with an overwhelming 80-39 majority, showing just how strong the consensus is to recognize the incredible power of teaching in Florida's schools.
This landmark legislation contains the following StudentsFirst priorities:
  • It eliminates Last-in, First Out (LIFO) in Florida. Moving forward, if districts have to reduce the size of the workforce, teachers with the highest performance levels on their evaluations will be the last to be released. The language in the bills expressly prohibits retention based on seniority, and we believe this will be the strongest LIFO language in the country. 
  • The bills empower parents more through parental notification. The legislation requires notification of parents if their child is placed in a classroom with an ineffective teach
  • It increases transparency on teacher performance, requiring districts to publish ratings of teachers by school and district (not the teacher's name). Now, for example, parents looking for the right school for their children will know the percent of effective and ineffective teachers in that school.
  • The legislation limits tenure over time, even limiting it immediately in several key ways, ending the practice of automatic contract renewal for teachers regardless of performance. In the new law, districts will have the option NOT to renew contracts due to unsatisfactory performance.
  • It reforms teacher evaluation and compensation to incorporate growth in student achievement. It is important to recognize here that teachers will not be evaluated on test scores alone, and that it is fair to teachers in measuring growth rather than absolute performance. Other factors such as student disabilities, attendance, and English proficiency will also be considered. The new law requires that at least 50 percent of the evaluation must be based on student learning growth.  
  • Further, there will be new salary schedules for teachers in which raises must be based on effectiveness rather than years in the system.  Districts will also be able to recognize the fact that it’s tougher to teach in some areas than others! For example, leaders will be allowed to compensate teachers more for working in low performing schools, critical need subject areas or taking on additional academic responsibilities. 
  • The legislation recognizes that results are more important than degrees. Salary increases for advanced degrees are not allowed, though a supplement can be provided if the degree is held in the teacher’s area of certification.
  • It recognizes that no principal should be forced to hire an ineffective teacher. It may be surprising that this happens all the time across the country, but it does, and it is not good for kids. Principals must have an interview process and are allowed to refuse the placement or transfer of a teacher who is rated ineffective.  An ineffective status for two years is grounds for dismissal under the new law. 
Thank you to our StudentsFirst members in Florida for making your voices heard to pass this important legislation, and congratulations to Florida! It is the first state to pass such comprehensive reform to evaluate, compensate, and Save Great Teachers in a challenging economic climate. Florida is well on its way toward providing an excellent education to all of its children

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