A controversial teacher bonus program could be up for changes this year. Teachers have complained the Best and Brightest program is unfair—it awards bonuses partly based on standardized test scores—disadvantaging older and minority educators.
Minority teachers tend to have lower SAT and ACT scores and older teachers often can no longer access those records, which can block their reward eligibility. The Florida Department of Education’s reports Best and Brightest Awards are going to teachers in more affluent and highly rated schools.
"Forty-eight percent of teachers teach in a Title I school, 27 percent of teachers in Title I received the scholarship, the opposite statistics would be intuitive there for not teaching in a Title I school," says DOE's Deputy Chancellor for Educator Quality Brian Dassler.
The program was meant to reward educators rated effective and highly effective. But not all teachers that quality get a financial reward. The state has a long history of merit pay programs which have faded over time, yet Senate education budget chairman David Simmons says that doesn’t mean scrapping Best and Brightest all together.
"I like Sen. Montford, believe we should increase this program and tweak it at the same time so we can tremendously reward our teachers," he says.
Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, is head of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.
Simmons suggests boosting the program’s funding from $49 million to $250 million, and he’s dropping the standardized test requirement. The program originated in the House which has resisted changes in the past.