In response to another reader, this Florida teacher describes a plan for teacher professionalism that worked very well but was de-funded by the Legislature.

In Florida, we used to have a system in place for such merit: It was pay for National Board Certification. Teachers went through a very rigorous process of evaluations, lesson planning, test-taking, etc. over a year and submitted their work to a national organization to be evaluated. It was a tough process, and not every teacher made it. Some teachers took several years of re-submitting their work before they were considered National Board Certified.

Once teachers earned initial certification, they were expected to become mentor teachers to newer teachers. The idea was to help develop and retain other strong teachers in the field.

Florida used to pay for the costly process of becoming certified. Once teachers were certified, they got an bonus of several thousand dollars- merit pay if you will- each year. They even had to re-certify every few years. Beyond that, NBCT teachers were paid bonus money for the number of hours they put in mentoring.

So what happened to this system of merit pay? It got cut. Completely done away with. The legislature used to fully fund it, but even before the economy tanked (because of course, that would be the argument for doing away with a program that actually improved the teaching profession and retained the best teachers) they cut all funding for the program. The very same legislators who pushed through our ill-conceived current merit pay plan- cut all funding for a merit-pay program that was actually working.

And how much funding is there now for our current merit-pay plan based strictly on test scores? Nada. Nothing. Zilch. How in the world does any businessman propose a merit pay plan with no actual merit?

It’s destined to fail in every capacity. Well, except one: increasing the bottom-line for test companies. As we divert (not come up with new funding, but divert from existing classroom funds) millions of dollars into hundreds of new poorly-written tests meant to “fit” this merit pay plan and determine who the “best” teachers are.

And as others have said, you are trying to quantify something that can’t be measured. Bonuses for coaching, sponsoring clubs, taking on leadership roles, extra tutoring, going through rigourous evaluation systems like National Board, I could buy it- those generally are your best teachers who truly are there for the kids.

But what we are doing with test scores is a complete joke. This WILL fail and I pray in a few years the pendulum starts to swing back towards common sense.