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Florida’s Controversial ‘Best and Brightest’ Teacher Bonus Program Passes in House

Florida’s Controversial ‘Best and Brightest’ Teacher Bonus Program Passes in House

Florida’s House voted to back the state's controversial “Best and Brightest” teacher bonus program, where teachers are provided thousands of dollars in bonuses based in part on college entrance exam scores.

The news could mean that the program- which only was guaranteed first-year funding- could be an annual thing.

House Bill 7043, in part, "'memorializes in statute' the Best & Brightest teacher bonus program, which lawmakers tacked on to the budget this year,” said the Miami Herald.

"The program offers bonuses to teachers who are rated 'highly effective' and score in the top 20th percentile at the time they took the SAT or ACT in high school. First-year teachers are eligible simply based on their exam scores,” it said.

Supporters of the bonus program say it works as a recruitment tool for the best and the brightest teacher hopefuls to teach in the state.

Critics say that college entrance exam scores are irrelevant to determine effective teaching skills and that the program negatively affects veteran teachers who have decades-old exam scores, if they have any scores at all.

The House has made it clear that passing the legislation is a priority- while the Senate has its own version of the bill that "makes it easier for teachers to qualify -- they need college entrance exam scores in top 40 percent -- and makes new teachers ineligible,” said The Orlando Sentinel.

The Senate, which has been extremely hesitant and cautious about the program, wants to fully debate the program before coming to a decision.

"Two bills could be vehicles for the "Best & Brightest" program in the Senate: a standalone bill by Sen. John Legg, R-Trinity, or another by [Sen. Don] Gaetz, which deals with performance funding and is ready for consideration by the full Appropriations Committee, should the panel take it up,” said The Tampa Bay Times.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

2/19/2016

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