Florida Legislature’s proposal would base $10K annual teacher bonuses in part on teachers’ own SAT/ACT scores. Does the research on teacher effectiveness support such a proposal?

Update Tuesday, April 28, 4:45 pm:  With the sudden and unexpected termination of the House session this afternoon, it is likely that the Florida Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program – along with lots of other initiatives moving through the Legislature – has died for this year.

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Original post:

The Florida Legislature seems poised to authorize a differential pay program for teachers.  As the regular readers of this blog know, I have long supported the idea of higher salaries for math and science teachers because new bachelors’ degree holders in fields like math and physics can make considerably more than starting teachers in Florida can. But that’s not the Legislature’s plan.

The “Florida Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program” is part of both HB 587 (which has already passed the full House – link here and see line 70) and SB 948 (which is heading to the floor after clearing its last committee stop – link here and see line 4643).  It has proceeded through its committee stops and its House floor vote with little opposition.

The program is called a “scholarship” but is actually a bonus program.  A qualifying teacher can receive a $10,000 “scholarship” bonus for a year in which she or he taught if two conditions are satisfied.  The first is that the teacher achieves a “highly effective” rating for the year.

The second condition is that the teacher earned a score in the 80th percentile or above on the SAT or ACT.  To be clear:  $10,000 of a teacher’s annual compensation would depend on the score a teacher earned on a test she or he took in high school.  In 2014, the 80th percentile scores were 630, 600 and 590 on the SAT math, critical reading and writing sections, respectively; and 26 on the ACT composite.

The “scholarship” can be paid to a new teacher as a sort of signing bonus if the teacher has the qualifying SAT or ACT score.

According to the proposal’s sponsors, the idea of basing a differential pay program on a teacher’s SAT or ACT score was inspired by research that demonstrates that higher teacher SAT/ACT scores are actually somewhat correlated with higher student achievement. (For example, see this 2007 article on the effect of teacher SAT scores on student achievement in New York City)

Why call it a “scholarship” instead of a “bonus” when the program has nothing to do with paying for college or graduate school?  Because a “scholarship” is not subject to collective bargaining at the district level.

Some researchers are not convinced that the correlation between SAT/ACT scores and teacher effectiveness is strong.  Former FSU Professor of Economics Tim Sass – who is now at Georgia State University – recently spoke to the Appalachian Higher Education Consortium on “Academic Competencies and Teacher Effectiveness”.  What does Tim say about the correlation between SAT/ACT scores and teacher effectiveness?  That there is “little direct evidence of a link between pre-college test scores and teacher effectiveness”.  Furthermore, Tim points out that in a paper he wrote with Doug Harris (another former FSU faculty member) in 2011 it was concluded that SAT scores are “not significantly correlated with individual teacher value-added in Florida” when results are controlled for college coursework.

You can read the power point from Tim’s talk by clicking on the link below.

sass_teacher_effectiveness_ahec

Thank you to Tim for obtaining permission to post this.

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