Crist, the FCAT, STAR and MAP
Okay, maybe it's us. Maybe The Gradebook is wrong. But if so, please set us straight so we quit having these fits about Gov. Crist and his description of the state's now-dead performance pay plan for teachers, the Special Teachers Are Rewarded (better known as STAR), and the Merit Award Program (better known as MAP) that replaced it.
Time and again, Crist has said he supports a plan that is not based on a test alone, and not based on the FCAT alone. The most recent example: Crist told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, for a piece that ran Friday, that the new MAP plan is different (and, he implies, better) because "teachers are not rewarded just on the basis of (FCAT results) anymore, and that's a key change from where we were just a year ago." Crist is consistent in his wording: In his State of the State speech in March, he promised a new merit pay plan "will not be based on a test alone." And in May, when the session ended, Crist had a handwritten note listing his priorities for the session and a checkmark next to "Teacher Pay (NOT TEST.)"
The problem is, STAR was never based on a test alone. And the new plan, MAP, puts as much if not more emphasis on standardized testing as STAR. Rightly or wrongly, STAR required standardized testing (including but not limited to the FCAT) to be the primary factor in determining a teacher bonus, and the Department of Education interpreted that to mean at least 50 percent. MAP, on the other hand, says standardized tests (including but not limited to the FCAT) must be 60 percent. Is that better?
When asked about the governor's position, Crist's office said in May that the new plan is better because it prevents districts from putting more emphasis on standardized tests in the future - something that potentially could happen under STAR, although The Gradebook is hard-pressed to recall anybody else in the STAR/MAP debate ever advancing that argument. (For more detail about all this, see this St. Pete Times story.)
Hundreds upon hundreds of angry teachers e-mailed Crist's office in the days leading up to the session to complain about STAR. But since Crist signed off on MAP, the fury has gone. Have teachers been pacified by misleading words?