For all of its faults, the Best and Brightest teacher bonus program does have one laudable goal at its core – to recruit a larger number of talented individuals into teaching in Florida.
In Florida, many talented individuals – including most physics teachers – enter the teaching profession without going through a traditional teacher education program. Instead, they complete alternative certification programs – quite often during their first few years of teaching. This has been true of all of the recent FSU Physics Department graduates who have entered teaching, and I am aware of several other young math and science teachers who have entered the profession through this alternative certification route.
During the last two years, the Best and Brightest program has paid “signing bonuses” to new teachers with SAT or ACT scores at or above the 80th percentile. That has provided at least some incentive for recent graduates of my department to enter teaching.
But language in the Senate Best and Brightest bill, SB 1552, would eliminate those signing bonuses for physics teachers and others who start teaching right after graduation without completing a teacher education program first. The key language is in lines 96-97 of the current bill. If a new teacher has not been “a recipient of the Florida Prepaid Tuition Scholarship Program” or “completed the college reach-out program”, then the new teacher must “Be a Florida college or university graduate of a Florida teacher preparation program.”
There is research on the effectiveness of alternatively certified teachers in Florida schools (from Georgia State’s Tim Sass), and this is what it says:
Of the three alternative certification pathways studied, teachers who enter through the path requiring no coursework have substantially greater effects on student achievement than do either traditionally prepared teachers or alternative programs that require some formal coursework in education. These results suggest that the additional education coursework required in traditional teacher preparation programs either does little to boost the human capital of teachers or that whatever gains accrue from traditional teacher education training are offset by greater innate ability of individuals who enter teaching through routes requiring little formal training in education.
The Senate language flies in the face of this research result.
The Senate language would also undermine school district teacher recruiting efforts – like Bay County’s – that rely on attracting teachers who have not gone through traditional teacher education programs.
And it would undermine my own efforts to recruit strong students into physics teaching. FSU has not graduated a physics teacher through its “traditional” teacher education route since 2012. The three recent FSU graduates I am aware of who are now teaching high school physics were impacted through their experiences either as students or instructors in my department’s Studio Physics Program. Their successors would be locked out of Best and Brightest signing bonuses by the Senate language.
The removal from the Senate bill of those 13 words requiring completion of a teacher education program might save efforts like mine and Bay County’s.