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Controversy in Florida: Teachers Receive Bonuses Partly Based on College Entrance Exam Scores

Controversy in Florida: Teachers Receive Bonuses Partly Based on College Entrance Exam Scores

Despite earlier controversy about a bonus program for teachers in Florida based on how they scored on college admissions exams, 5,200 teachers will collect over $8,400 from the Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program by April.

According to The Orlando Sentinel, abut three percent of Florida’s 17,000 eligible classroom instructors qualified as the “best and brightest” through the scholarship program.

In order to qualify, teachers must be rated “highly effective” through the state’s evaluation system and must have scored in the top 20 percent on ACT or SAT scores the year they took the exam. For first-year teachers, they only need the test scores to qualify.

"Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, the program's creator, said he hoped the bonuses would encourage top teachers to stay in the profession and higher-caliber college students to pursue teaching careers,” The Orlando Sentinel said.

"Countries that outperform the United States on international tests, he added, recruit their teaching force from the top 20 percent of college students.”

But the program has been met with significant criticism from teachers, even eligible ones, since its announcement.

Though many support the idea of increased teacher pay, critics argue basing bonuses on college entrance exams from decades ago is misguided.

The Sentinel noted that through the program, the state’s teacher of the year did not receive the bonus. 

"Florida's teacher of the year – honored in July at a black-tie gala with the governor – isn't on the list of bonus winners from the Hillsborough County school district, where she was an eighth-grade teacher. That teacher, Diane McKee, was not available to comment on the bonus program,” it said.

She may have intentionally not registered to be considered for the bonus; many teachers who disagree with the program said they would prefer not to support it, but said they cannot afford to turn down the prospect of receiving the extra money. 

The Sentinel also noted a large discrepancy in eligible teachers across districts.

"In some districts, including Orange and Seminole counties, more than 50 percent of teachers were 'highly qualified' in recent years while in some districts fewer than 10 percent were."

"That likely helps explain why Orange's school district has 670 teachers, 120 of them first-year instructors in Florida, eligible for the new bonus and larger Broward County has only 96,” it said.

Despite the discrepancies, however, the program will continue on as it received its first favorable vote from the Florida House education committee last week.

Read the full story.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

12/07/2015

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