Best and Brightest, by the numbers
Florida's Best and Brightest teacher bonus came under challenge by the Florida Education Association last week. Among the concerns: The program unfairly benefits new teachers, who need not meet the requirement of a "highly effective" performance evaluation.
Data released by the Florida Department of Education don't bolster the criticism. Of 5,084 eligible applicants for who details are available, 820, or 16 percent, are listed as first-year teachers. The remaining 84 percent (not counting another 250 who fall under public records exemptions) had to meet the evaluation mandate.
The median age for the applicants was 37, according to the Palm Beach Post, meaning half were older and half were younger.
The FEA also contended that the program discriminated against teachers of color, in that studies have shown the qualifying SAT and ACT exams to be culturally and racially biased. Districts were not asked to submit race or ethnicity information about the applicants to the state.
Some other interesting tidbits did crop up within the data. Among those:
- Orange County had the highest number of eligible applicants, with 672. Only five other districts had more than 200 eligible applicants. They are, in order, Hillsborough, Seminole, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Pasco.
- Nine schools had 20 or more eligible teachers on their staffs, with Orange Winter Park High the top at 44. The others, in order, are Seminole Oviedo High and Lake Mary High (26 each); Seminole Winter Springs High, Orange Freedom High and Olympia High (23 each); Leon Lincoln High (22); Palm Beach Boca Raton Community High (21); and Orange Robinswood Middle (20).
- In the Tampa Bay region, the schools with the top numbers of eligible applicants (by county) were Hillsborough Steinbrenner High (13), Pasco Wiregrass Ranch and Anclote high schools (10 each), Hernando Nature Coast High (9) and Pinellas St. Petersburg High (7).
Renewal of the bonus program remains on track in the coming legislative session. If it makes its way out of the Senate Education Committee, where the most significant doubt has surfaced, it could find a way back into the budget for the coming year.