Florida’s statewide teacher bonus programs: A graphical summary

From the budget negotiation documents being posted by the Florida Senate, it appears that the statewide teacher bonus program will be funded at last year’s level of $234 million or a little above.

Several weeks ago, the Orlando Sentinel’s Leslie Postal reported on how this year’s statewide bonus program money is being spent.  The vast majority of the money is being spent on $1,200 bonuses for every public school teacher earning a rating of “Highly Effective” in 2016-17 and $800 bonuses for “Effective” teachers.

According to the Florida Department of Education, 85,192 teachers – 51.1% of all public school teachers in the state – earned “Highly Effective”.  Therefore, about $102 million will be spent on that particular bonus.

Teachers earning an “Effective” rating in 2016-17 – and there were 78,377 of those (47.1% of the total) – will receive $800 each, for a total of about $63 million.

It’s important to note that the rate at which teachers are evaluated as “Highly Effective” varies dramatically from district to district, as shown here.


Under the present state bonus program, there are three additional bonus types all (controversially) tied to SAT or ACT scores earned by the teachers themselves.  The first is a bonus that the Sentinel reported to be $7,200 that is awarded to 9,000 teachers that have both a Highly Effective rating and an SAT/ACT score in the top 20%.  Florida will spend about $65 million on that type of bonus.

In addition, the state provides signing bonuses of $6,000 each to first-year teachers who have SAT/ACT scores in the top 20%.  The Sentinel reported that only 586 first-year teachers will receive those signing bonuses, accounting for only a sliver of the total – about $3.5 million.

Finally, the Sentinel reported that bonuses of either $4,000 or $5,000 will be paid to 638 principals who hire a relatively large number of teachers eligible for the ACT/SAT-driven bonuses.  The total for that type of bonus is about $3 million – again, a very small percentage of the total.

The relative sizes of the expenditures on the different types of bonuses is shown below.


The nominal rationale for the ACT/SAT-driven bonus types is to improve recruiting of strong college students into teaching careers.  The ACT/SAT-driven bonuses have been in place for several years, so the improvement in recruiting would be visible by now if it were working.  But as shown below, the rate at which new high school math teachers – who would be most likely to have high ACT/SAT scores – are entering the profession is plummeting.  The ACT/SAT-driven component of the statewide bonus program just isn’t working.



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