Did ending teacher professional services contracts help Florida students’ academic achievement?

Donna Kellogg, (second from left holding sign and talking on cell phone) a special needs teacher with the Hillsborough County School District, was among hundreds of faculty, staff, and parents who lined both sides of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. bridge over the Hillsborough River Wednesday (04/07/2010) afternoon to protest Senate Bill 6, currently being considered in the state legislature in Tallahassee. "I think that it's unconscionable for them to be up there doing what they're doing to us," Kellogg said. "...it's like being kicked in the teeth." [STEPHEN J. CODDINGTON   |   Times]
Donna Kellogg, (second from left holding sign and talking on cell phone) a special needs teacher with the Hillsborough County School District, was among hundreds of faculty, staff, and parents who lined both sides of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. bridge over the Hillsborough River Wednesday (04/07/2010) afternoon to protest Senate Bill 6, currently being considered in the state legislature in Tallahassee. "I think that it's unconscionable for them to be up there doing what they're doing to us," Kellogg said. "...it's like being kicked in the teeth." [STEPHEN J. CODDINGTON | Times]
Published May 17
Updated May 17

Florida lawmakers first proposed doing away with teacher "tenure" in 2010, making it happen in 2011 despite strong teacher opposition.

One of their arguments: Making it easier to get rid of low-performing teachers could lead to higher student academic results.

Did it work?

Only a tiny bit, and then only maybe, according to a newly released Brookings report.

The paper, by researchers Celeste Carruthers, David Figlio and Tim Sass, states that "students in the most vulnerable schools show gains that compared favorably to students in the least vulnerable schools, but by a very small degree."

Even then, the authors write, that outcome needs to be viewed with "substantial caution." Other factors could have played a role, they observe.

"Note also that we examine just one likely outcome of tenure reform," they continue. "Returning to the language of the statute, the intent was to raise student achievement by improving the quality of instructional, administrative, and supervisory services in the public schools. Whether SSA or policies like it succeed in attracting and retaining high quality teachers remains an open question."

Indeed, the writers find, the answer to whether the initiative succeeded might ultimately be political.

"'Regression to the mean' is a statistical concept that we worry
about when interpreting results, but it is also a fair description of what has
happened to SSA since 2011," they state. "The lofty goals of tying teacher evaluation, retention, and pay to student achievement growth have since faded to a considerable degree."

Read the full paper, Did Tenure Reform in Florida Affect Student Test Scores?, for more details.

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