Florida has decided they can improve education in that state by tying teacher pay directly to the standardized test scores of their students. The amount of lousy logic in this plan is so great it’s hard to know where to begin.

Let’s start with this little piece of stupidity.

The centerpiece of the new effort, known as E-Comp, requires all school districts in Florida to identify the top 10 percent of each variety of teacher and award them a 5 percent salary supplement.

The overly large school district for which I work tried a similar merit system more than ten years ago (although not tied to test scores). The program failed, largely due to this kind of artificial quota set on the number of “merit” teachers in a school.

Then there’s the matter of how the top teachers will be identified. For those dealing with “core” subjects it’s pretty simple. They get ranked based on how well their students improve on the state standardized tests.

It’s not so simple for the rest. They are ranked by “objective measures” that the districts get to design. Right. Basically, teachers of music, PE, or other “frill” subjects may as well plan on not getting an E-Comp.

But beyond the actual execution, there are two other huge problems with the Florida plan.

For one, it provides powerful incentives for good teachers to move to schools with fewer problems where they not only get paid more but also have the chance to teach more than just test prep classes. Or they teach somewhere other than Florida.

And the schools with the neediest students get the weakest teachers.

Even worse, though, is that they plan also codifies the concept that the standardized test is the curriculum. We must aim for the lowest common denominator.

All of this is nothing more than another a politically motivated proposal to run schools like a business.

The effort, now being adopted by local districts, is viewed as a landmark in the movement to restructure American schools by having them face the same kind of competitive pressures placed on private enterprise, and advocates say it could serve as a national model to replace traditional teacher pay plans that award raises based largely on academic degrees and years of experience.

That’s nice. However, look at all our corporations focus completely on the quarterly numbers. Product quality is a distant second priority. People come third. Great model for education.

But what’s so wrong with differentiating teacher pay?

Actually nothing. However, if you’re going to follow a business model, you offer higher pay for more difficult jobs. Or for specialists with skills that are in short supply.

In education that would mean teachers who work with high needs students or in schools with more difficult problems. It would also include those who are highly qualified to teach in shortage fields like math or science.

But the bottom line is that this plan will do nothing to improve Florida schools. Nothing.

florida, merit pay, school reform