Every child in Florida needs, and deserves, to be in a classroom with a highly qualified, professional, and dedicated teacher in order to reach their full potential. Legislation, budget, and other decisions made at the state level have had a negative impact on the teaching profession in recent years, which in turn impacts the learning environment for children.
- A statewide teacher shortage/exodus from the profession has reached crisis levels, leaving many children without the continuity and solid instruction they need in order to learn and grow.
- At the beginning of the 2019/2020 school year, there were 3,500 vacancies for teaching positions across the state of Florida. That equates to over 300,000 children without a permanent classroom teacher. Many of these children are being taught by substitute teachers who may or may not have the knowledge and skills needed to help them thrive. The lack of continuity and subject matter expertise in the classroom is detrimental to student learning.
- One of the reasons teachers are leaving the profession is low pay. Despite being the third largest state by population with a one trillion dollar economy, Florida is currently 46th in the nation in teacher pay. The average teacher salary in Florida is $48,168, which is $12,309 lower than the national average.
- While overall per student funding was increased in Florida in 2019, only $75 per student was provided to the Base Student Allocation, which districts can use to fund teacher salaries and benefits.
- Low pay leads to higher stress and burnout levels as well as absenteeism for teachers, as many of them are forced to work additional jobs. Higher pay will attract more people to the teaching profession and provide a larger selection of candidates, thus leading to higher quality instruction.
Teacher Performance Evaluations
- Another factor that impacts teacher retention is performance evaluations. The state mandates that a percentage of each teacher’s pay, as well as bonuses, are determined based on student performance (often referred to as “performance pay” or “merit pay”). This leads to additional and unnecessary tests for children, which creates anxiety and takes up valuable instruction time. It also contributes to a test-centered learning environment, which has been proven ineffective in increasing student achievement, causing schools to focus on subjects that are tested at the expense of others.
- There is mounting evidence that using student performance to evaluate teachers is not a reliable measurement of teacher quality. Studies from the American Statistical Association, the Economist Policy Institute and the National Center on Performance Incentives have indicated that the practice does not lead to better student outcomes, and in fact can lead to decreased outcomes for some student populations.
- Test-based performance evaluation systems have an even bigger impact on schools in impoverished neighborhoods, as they incentivize teachers to move to schools where student test scores are higher.
- At least 11 other states have moved away from using tests to evaluate teachers within the past two years, including Maine, California, New Mexico, New York, Wyoming, Washington State, Texas, West Virginia, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Ohio.
The impact that teacher quality and work environment have on student achievement cannot be underestimated. By improving teacher work conditions and pay structure, we will provide children with the environment and opportunities they need to be successful.