Florida bill ties teachers' wages to student performance instead of tenure

When Pasco County school principal Ginny Yanson had to get rid of a bad teacher recently, it was like running an obstacle course.

The teacher was new, still on probation. Under state law, she could be fired without cause. And yet, when she refused to execute lesson plans and "wasn't doing any teaching," Yanson couldn't just pull out a pink slip.

Yanson had weekly meetings with the teacher. She brought in mentors, model teachers, sample lesson plans. Yanson gave her a letter with a timeline to improve.

"She did not follow through with any of those things," said Yanson, 63, principal at Sand Pine Elementary in Wesley Chapel.

It took the threat of firing by the School Board to finally get the teacher out of the classroom, Yanson said.

That's the kind of story that fuels Republican lawmakers in Tallahassee as they promote legislation to revamp how teachers are evaluated, paid and fired -- in what could be Florida's biggest education overhaul in a decade.

The plan would eliminate "professional services" contracts — what some people informally call tenure — and tie half of teachers' pay to student performance on the FCAT and end-of-course exams.

Florida would be the first in the nation to hinge so much of an educator's salary on student performance, and one of just a handful of states that do not award multiple-year contracts to teachers with classroom experience.

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