The Florida Education Association (FEA) filed a complaint against the Best and Brightest bonus plan. The complaint was filed with the US Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and the Florida Commission on Human Relations. This is the $10,000 bonus for teachers with high SAT and/or ACT scores who received highly effective ratings. Well, not exactly. First year teachers were exempt from the teacher evaluation rating. Not enough money was allocated to cover the $10,000 cost per qualified teacher.
The FEA claims that the bonus program discriminates against certain groups. For example, teachers whose test scores were earned before 1978 were excluded–the testing companies did not report the percentile rankings needed to qualify. Many minorities did not even sit the exams; they were optional for many colleges. Some argue that the tests discriminate against minorities. There are problems with the validity of the teacher evaluation system itself. In a Rand study, the researchers used Pinellas County data to show that which students were assigned to a teacher from year to year had a large impact on the teachers’ evaluations.
Teacher bonus programs do not improve academic achievement. Even the Gates Foundation acknowledged this in its project in Hillsborough County (See previous post). Teacher evaluation ratings fluctuate and are heavily dependent on the students assigned to them. Teacher shortages are growing larger. Teacher salaries in Florida are low. We know these things. The Legislature also knows.
The bonus proposals are between a rock and a hard place. Everyone understands that Florida must attract and retain highly qualified people, but the political climate supports less spending than needed. The legislature had $44 million to spend on salary bonuses this year–a drop in the bucket.
How big is the need? Florida has about 186, 361 teachers. Approximately 42% received ‘highly effective’ ratings. Only 5200 teachers were able to present the required SAT/ACT scores or were first year teachers who did have the evaluation that others had to present. The bottom line is that about six percent of teachers with highly effective ratings were awarded a bonus. Is this an insult or an incentive?
When cutting costs rather than improving quality is the goal, we had best consider the outcomes. Achievement is not better. The incidence of profiteering and corruption is up in cost cutting alternatives to traditional public schools. Resegregation is increasing. Teacher retention is down. Bonuses for a few will not help remedy these problems. We need a better way to finance our schools.
Just saw this article in the Washington Post: The Worst and Dumbest education program in the U.S. could get even worse.