A New High Bar for School Reform In Florida

The White House recently crowned its first Race to the Top winners, awarding Delaware and Tennessee millions of dollars to overhaul their public-school systems. The states beat out dozens of others by passing laws that tie teacher evaluations to student performance and make it easier to fire bad educators. Bold as they sound, however, the reforms feel almost timid next to what Florida—which didn't win any federal money in the first round of the grant contest—has cooking for its next proposal.

Late last month, the Senate approved a bill that would make Florida the first state to abolish tenure and replace seniority-based pay with a system that pegs each teacher's annual raise to a performance review—half of which will be based on test scores. It's an "all-out assault" on educators, according to the state's largest school union. But with support from the governor and a Republican majority in the house, the bill appears destined to become law. It may also become a benchmark for Race to the Top when the next round of winners is announced this fall. If Florida takes the pot, says Amy Wilkins of the Education Trust, it's "a harbinger of things to come."