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FCAT-based salary increases not a good idea

The idea of competition breeding innovation works in the business world and in the job market, but does it belong in the classroom? The Florida Board of Education approved a proposal Tuesday that will link salary increases to FCAT results. The plan is being called Effectiveness Compensation, or E-Comp.

The FCAT, or Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, is administered to students in grades 3-11. Teachers are required to administer the test annually, and the quality of their teaching ability is generally judged against their students’ results. With the proposal, teachers whose students excel at the FCAT would be eligible for a 5 percent salary bonus. This does not bode well for the educators of Florida.

Given the fact that middle school and high school students have different class periods with different teachers, how does the state plan to decide on who is worthy of the bonus and who isn’t? Teachers should not have to compete against each other within their own schools. Schools should be about teamwork and synergy. This bill promotes the exact opposite.

Conversely, a teacher should not be punished with a lower salary if some of his or her students aren’t making the grade. The bill would likely lead to tension and corruption in schools. Money talks.

Passing such a proposal would lead to uncertainty among educators and parents in general. Do parents want a price tag placed on their children’s intelligence? Will quality educators shy away from teaching students with more challenging problems and disabilities? Will the teachers have their students’ education or their own wallets on their minds?

Regardless, educators in the United States, not just Florida, do more for their students than can be gauged from a yearly aptitude test. Teachers should be rewarded for building confidence, educating and being a general mentor for students. Being a teacher requires virtue, patience and adaptability, but a pay-for-performance plan judges them solely on their students’ ability to fill out a Scantron.

If Florida is intent on leaving no child behind, unbalancing the playing field for teachers should be the last thing on the Board of Education’s agenda.