It has been called kooky, unfair and absurd -- but that didn’t stop more than 500 Miami-Dade County teachers from applying for Florida’s Best and Brightest, a controversial new bonus.
Florida Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, managed to slip $44 million into the state’s latest budget to give teachers a raise of up to $10,000. Here’s the controversial part: the money is tied to teachers’ own SAT and ACT scores -- college entrance exams they may have taken decades ago.
The test-makers themselves said they haven’t studied whether the scores correlate with teaching quality.
In July, ACT senior vice president for research Wayne Camara told the Miami Herald: "Certainly we're concerned when parties signal that they want to use ACT scores for reasons that we consider not appropriate."
Fresen did not immediately return a phone call and text message for comment.
Thursday was the deadline for teachers to submit their scores to school districts. According to a district spokesman, 561 teachers applied for the bonus in Miami-Dade.
Teachers complained about a lack of information to apply for the program and difficulty tracking down old scores -- which could take weeks to receive. Others simply don’t have scores because they went to community or foreign colleges that didn’t require them.
Noreen Morelli is an art teacher at Miami Shores Elementary with 30 years experience and is a National Board Certified teacher -- a certification that has been linked to better teaching but which the state doesn’t provide bonuses for anymore.
“They can’t spit out a couple of bucks for that, but they’re going to make up some nonsense,” she asked. “It’s the stupidest I ever heard in my life.”
Morelli said she didn’t apply for the Best and Brightest, calling it a "slap in the face" for teachers.
“I graduated high school in 1968. Where in the world am I going to be getting this SAT information? It’s ridiculous,” she said.
School districts now have to process the applications for the bonuses, and teachers should see their pay boost in April paychecks.
How much money each teacher gets will depend on how many qualify. Fresen has previously said the state estimates 4,400 would meet the criteria and apply. Teachers have to had scored in the 80th percentile on the SAT or ACT and also receive top evaluation ratings. New teachers without evaluations only needed to submit test scores.
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