Florida Ranks 47th in Attracting, Retaining Effective Teachers

Florida does not compare well to other states in key factors that affect the teaching profession. State policymakers can take action to improve compensation and mobility that would enable it to attract and retain high-performing teachers.

Terry Golden
October 2017

WalletHub ranked states and Washington D.C. based on a variety of factors that affect the teaching profession to determine the best and worst states for teachers. Florida is one of the worst, with a ranking of 47th.

Florida is in the middle of the rankings for starting teacher salaries. Its ranking drops from there, coming in at 41st in average annual salary, 32nd in income growth potential and 37th in 10-year salary change. The effect of low funding for teacher salaries becomes evident when one considers perpetual, chronic teacher shortages in the state. Specifically, Florida ranks 46th in its share of uncertified teachers and 41st in projected teacher turnover. Not only does the state have difficulty attracting Floridians to the teaching profession– it has significant difficulty retaining teachers longer than three to five years. The report notes:

“This combination of job pressures, low pay and lack of mobility forces many teachers to quit soon after they start, a pattern that has led to a perpetual attrition problem in America’s public schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about a fifth of all newly minted public-school teachers leave their positions before the end of their first year, and nearly half never last more than five. Many teachers, especially novices, transfer to other schools or abandon the profession altogether ‘as the result of feeling overwhelmed, ineffective, and unsupported,’ according to ASCD, a nonprofit focused on improving the education community.”

For the last several years, state policymakers have focused increased remuneration (bonuses) on a combination of teachers’ effectiveness and their scores on certain high school tests. There are several problems with this approach to teacher compensation. The program is unstable because the Legislature has the option in any year to fund the program or withhold its funding. As a result, teachers cannot depend on the bonuses year after year. Also, the bonuses are add-ons to the recipient’s salary and do not increase the base salary, regardless of sustained high-level performance. Finally, the bonuses are not included in teachers’ retirement calculations. Many teachers fail to qualify for the bonus because they no longer have access to their SAT or ACT scores. No logical nexus between these scores and teaching quality has been articulated.

Generally, people are willing to pay a premium for something they value if it is high quality. If policymakers value high-quality teaching, it is time to consider lasting, stable, appropriate compensation for the value these teachers add to their students and, by extension, their communities.

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