Teachers are already under-appreciated, under-paid and over-stressed. In an apparent attempt to add insult to injury, the Florida Legislature is proposing a merit-pay system to give a monetary reward to teachers whose students perform well on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. The FCAT is already considered a laughable measure of Florida’s public education system, so to assume that its form of standardized testing indicates the competency of the state’s teachers is false and unfair.
The state law requires every school district to outline how it will give its top teachers a five percent pay raise. The pay raise would be determined by student performance, the FCAT in particular. The law, while specific about the type of reward teachers should be given, is considerably vague on the details. Individual districts must be in charge of why and how much it gives to each teacher. The criteria for the extra pay, whether it be national certification, plus FCAT scores or completion of college courses for teachers puts more pressure on teachers who already have responsibilities that go beyond the classroom.
Students will also not benefit from this new incentive plan. While many supporters think the program will encourage teachers to better prepare their students, the added pressure of the incentive will instead transfer to the students and have a negative impact. Many students do not perform well on standardized tests in the first place, but to have a teacher driving the point home day after day, just so he or she can get a pay raise, will be detrimental to the students.
The FCAT has come under fire during the past six months as an outdated form of measuring schools and the feasibility of their education programs. For the state to impose a teacher incentive program based on a sketchy measurement of educational standards is a slap in the face for teachers who already are entrusted with the future of children yet still have to struggle to gain respect and a decent wage.