About the Author: Mandy Clark is widely known in Florida as an education expert, serving in a variety of senior education, policy, and development roles for a number of organizations and on several education panels. She is dedicated to making sure all students have access to a high-quality education. As a result, she co-created Impact Florida — an organization to support educational leaders, districts and teachers with the knowledge and tools they need to ensure that great teaching is consistently in place across the State of Florida.
By: Mandy Clark, Co-Founder of Impact Florida
Teachers want to experience the joy of seeing their students succeed. For many great teachers, it’s their primary motivation. Impact Florida shares Gov. DeSantis’ goal of moving Florida to the top of the salary rankings nationwide. Yet, as important as financial rewards are, they are only part of the support that teachers need to be successful.
As the Florida Legislature works with the governor to hash out the details of a teacher compensation package, we urge a comprehensive approach to equip teachers with the conditions for student achievement.
Though Florida’s educational achievements are on the rise, our state still has a long way to go in providing quality instruction to all students in all schools. While Florida has made significant progress in raising overall graduation rates, we still struggle to close the gap in outcomes among Black, Latino, and low-income students.
We believe the key to increasing student performance and closing achievement gaps is recognizing, supporting, and expanding the conditions for great teaching.
By working with school districts, experts, researchers, and teachers who achieve exceptional results, Impact Florida has codified a set of conditions school leaders can engage to support excellent instruction. We call these the “Five Conditions That Support Great Teaching.”
In addition to improving teacher compensation, we encourage state leaders to make sure they are supporting Florida school district leaders to address all Five Conditions. We need a truly comprehensive strategy that not only wins the battle for teaching talent but improves instruction, student learning, and equity.
Leaders also need to equip teachers with high-quality, academically rigorous instructional materials, so they are not having to spend their valuable time creating their own curriculum. At the same time, teachers deserve ready access to effective professional learning systems and structures. We are encouraged by the conversations the Florida Department of Education and the Legislature are having about how to make this type of professional development more of a consistent reality across Florida schools.
When leaders are empowered with the knowledge to recognize and scale great teaching beyond individual classrooms, both educators and students win. In a statewide survey conducted by Impact Florida, 74% of teachers said they believe that some long-held instructional practices have actually contributed to the achievement gaps. To us, that says educators are willing to make improvements but need their school and district leaders to help them shift their practices effectively.
Finally, we must make regular use of data to drive continuous improvement. Effective district and school leaders help teachers identify strengths and weaknesses and develop action plans to support advancement.
We know bringing these Five Conditions to life is much easier said than done. That’s why, through the Districts for Impact initiative, Impact Florida is working with a cadre of diverse districts to identify promising practices across the Five Conditions. We will be publishing our learnings and sharing them with other education leaders and teachers across the state.
In summary, an increase in teacher pay and a better bonus structure for teachers and principals will certainly help Florida compete for and retain top educational talent. More importantly, Florida’s teachers will feel recognized and valued for the hard work they do each day to educate the next generation of Floridians.
But, as we heard from educators across the state, pay is just one type of support they desire. We must also ensure they are empowered with professional supports that will advance their efficacy in the classroom. This type of comprehensive strategy would help Florida check all the boxes, producing happy teachers and more students with an education that sets them up for success.