More Florida teachers qualify for smaller Best and Brightest bonus
A growing number of Florida teachers has qualified for the controversial Best and Brightest bonus that's based, in part, on their college entry exam scores.
Districts deemed 7,188 educators as eligible for the state-funded award, which boosts the pay of teachers who earned a "highly effective" evaluation rating and also scored in the top 20 percent of SAT or ACT scores in the year they took the test. That's 1,854 more teachers than received the money in the program's first year.
Lawmakers added about $5 million to the Best and Brightest pot last spring, but the amount did not allow for the bonuses to reach 2015-16 levels of $8,800. This year, the Department of Education reported, teachers would receive $6,817.
Orange County schools continued to lead the way with the most teachers getting the bonus with 785, up by more than 100. The other districts with 200 or more eligible teachers are, in order, Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Seminole, Brevard, Pasco, Florida Virtual School, Miami-Dade, Sarasota, Clay, Santa Rosa, Alachua and Leon.
Pinellas schools had 96 participants and Hernando had 47. The money is due to be paid by April.
The fate of the bonus for future years remains up in the air.
The Florida Board of Education has called for changes to the program, which did not make its way into law amid disagreements between the House proponents and Senate opponents in 2016. Lawmakers have said they expect a lively debate about the best way to reward top teachers while also making the job attractive financially to new educators.
Many teachers have criticized the model because of its reliance on tests they took while still in high school, saying it offers an invalid measure of their success. While some said they would not participate in such a system, others said they would be remiss to leave the money sitting on the table.