For the last two years, Florida’s largest teacher incentive program – the controversial Best and Brightest bonus program – has been driven in part by teachers’ own scores on the ACT and SAT college entrance examinations.
This will change dramatically if Governor Scott signs into law HB 7069, the Legislature’s massive K-12 policy bill.
Under HB 7069, Florida’s new primary teacher incentive program will consist of modest bonuses for teachers who earn evaluations of “effective” ($800) and “highly effective” ($1,200) and will not have any further eligibility requirements. But while the bonuses are modest, the scope of this new program is not. Almost half of Florida’s teachers (45.9% or 75,821) earned a “highly effective” evaluation in 2015-16. Nearly all of the rest (52.0% or 85,929 teachers) earned an evaluation of “effective”.
If the numbers of teachers earning “highly effective” and “effective” evaluations this year is the same, then the state will spend about $160 million on this new bonus program.
The amount spent on the new bonus program will dwarf the amount spent on the ACT/SAT-driven Best and Brightest teacher bonus program despite the larger $6,000 bonuses awarded for the latter. The new Principals’ Best and Brightest bonus program that is authorized under HB 7069 will also be considerably smaller than the new teacher bonus program.
But the new broad program of modest bonuses and the continuing Best and Brightest teacher bonus program have one important component in common – the state’s teacher evaluation system, under which the percentages of teachers rated “highly effective” and “effective” vary wildly from district to district. Only teachers rated “highly effective” are eligible for the larger Best and Brightest bonuses, even if they have the high ACT/SAT scores required.
As shown below, the percentages of teachers rated “highly effective” vary from a high of 97.6% in Okaloosa County to 10.3% in Pinellas County and even smaller percentages in rural Dixie, Jackson and Putnam Counties. (Report from the Florida Department of Education)