Over the past decade, Florida has shown its laser-focus on student performance. Beginning with Jeb Bush and his able and imaginative education team, Florida moved forward on a reform agenda. But it was a reform agenda with a difference. Instead of following tradition and simply doing more of the same old things, Florida did two things. First, the rhetoric was not about “helping schools”, which too often translates into helping the adults in schools. Instead it was about student achievement – first reading and then achievement more broadly. Second, it was willing to do different things. It developed a strong accountability system, one based on growth in student learning. It pushed for options for students stuck in failing schools. It provided incentives for rewarding teachers.
Now it is showing additional leadership by moving aggressively on issues of teacher quality. It is poised to pass legislation that would do two things. It would do away with teacher tenure for newly hired teachers. And, it would require that half of teacher pay increases be based on student performance.