Florida Positions Itself at the Forefront

By 04/07/2010

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Over the past decade, Florida has shown its laser-focus on student performance.  Beginning with Jeb Bush and his able and imaginative education team, Florida moved forward on a reform agenda.  But it was a reform agenda with a difference.  Instead of following tradition and simply doing more of the same old things, Florida did two things.  First, the rhetoric was not about “helping schools”, which too often translates into helping the adults in schools.  Instead it was about student achievement – first reading and then achievement more broadly.  Second, it was willing to do different things.  It developed a strong accountability system, one based on growth in student learning.  It pushed for options for students stuck in failing schools.  It provided incentives for rewarding teachers.

Now it is showing additional leadership by moving aggressively on issues of teacher quality.  It is poised to pass legislation that would do two things.  It would do away with teacher tenure for newly hired teachers.  And, it would require that half of teacher pay increases be based on student performance.

Who could be against these ideas?  Certainly parents and students cannot be.  But just as certainly, the teachers unions are aghast that anybody would want student outcomes to play a prominent role in teacher retention decisions.

Florida legislators recognize that teacher quality is central to student outcomes.  They also recognize that neither teacher experience nor graduate degrees bear any consistent relationship to student achievement.  This legislation is simply putting policy where the evidence is.

Florida is poised to lead the nation in crafting student policies.  No wonder the fight is being fought so hard in the Florida House.  This kind of precedent could sweep the nation.  And then where would we be left?  We would just have to make policies that were proven to support student learning.

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  • […] educational change in at least a decade, and Republican think-tanks are already gushing. In a recent blog post on the bills, Eric Hanushek of the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University wrote […]

  • Bonnie Clancy says:

    The “incentives” put forth have actually had no appreciable effect on student performance in Florida. Check your statistics.
    And linking teacher pay to student performance on standardized tests will NOT make Florida a leader, but will further undermine a stressed and troubled system.
    Sixty years of behavioral psychology research clearly show that offering “rewards” for performance actually decrease performance in all but very menial jobs.
    This Republican bill will only serve to demoralze teachers, and costs Florida taxpayers millions to buy worhtless standardized tests like the FCAT.
    I am not a teacher; my interest is as a Florida taxpayer and citizen

  • Eric Hanushek says:

    Unfortunately, the achievement data differ substantially from this suggestion.  According to rankings on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Florida students ranked 36th in the nation in 1992 on fourth grade reading.  By 2007, Florida students ranked 21st.  The gains were even more dramatic for black students who ranked 33rd in the nation in 1992 and 11th in the nation in 2007.  There is obvious room for further improvement, but the gains from the initial policies should not be ignored.
    The psychological literature cited as being against rewards to teachers is also misleading and misused in this situation.  The advantage of rewarding those who do well and not those who do badly comes from attracting and retaining more effective teachers.  The psychological literature all refers to whether extrinsic rewards get the current workers to work harder.  Performance rewards are about selection of who the teachers are and not about getting current teachers to put in more effort.
    One of the hallmarks of Florida education policy is that it pays attention to evidence and performance instead of relying on emotion or on conventional wisdom.

  • Rober Megan says:

    Mr. Hanushek,

    In South Africa they are giving prison terms and healthy fines to meteorologists that issue inaccurate weather forecasts.

    I think we need to do the same with those in your profession. The metric would be quite simple to implement: If you are not right 90% of the time, then you are done in that line of work.

    The crisis of mal-prediction is real. It’s cost to society is in the trillions. Just look at all of the economists who missed the big meltdown and the internet collapse in 2000 and whose recommendations and research in everything from global warming to edu-reform HAVE FAILED.

    We need to do something. Sloppy social science and reckless recommendations have hurt his nation. Those, like yourself, who issue opinions and policy recommendations, must be held to account, and PUBLICLY.

    Good, productive, accurate policy makers and forecasters have nothing to fear from this new system. The boost in wealth from accurate policy decisions could well be in the hundreds of trillions of dollars. This could eliminate the national debt! And every child could have a Sidwell private education!

    I like that. Get rid of the rotten economists and all of our problems will be solved.

    It sounds harsh, I know. But good, productive, economists who are always right have nothing to fear.

    Are you onboard with this?

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