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FEA Files Suit Against Best and Brightest Program

September 15th, 2017 by Jake Stofan

Florida teachers are suing the state and local school boards over a program that bases teacher bonuses on how well they scored on high school standardized tests.

Statistics show the policy disproportionately benefits young white teachers over black and hispanic teachers.

 

The Best and Brightest bonus program became law in 2015, it gives bonuses to teachers who scored in the 80th percentile on their ACT or SAT during high school.

The Florida School Boards Association says many school boards opposed the one size fits all remedy to teacher recruitment when it was originally proposed.

 

“If they were given the same amount of money to use in their district for recruitment and retention, they might use it differently to better meet their needs,” said Andrea Messina, Executive Director of the FSBA.

The Florida Education Association says rewarding teachers for high school test scores disproportionately benefits white teachers, who make up nine out of ten of those who qualified for the bonuses.

 

“Our historically black colleges and universities, they didn’t have to take an SAT or an ACT so they have no score. So they’re eliminated right off the bat from that,” said President of the FEA, Joanne McCall.

Teachers also say the Best and Brightest program leaves out older teachers, who went to school before standardized tests were as common.

More than half of teachers who received the bonus are under the age of 40, yet the age group makes up only a third of the state’s teachers.

The Union says high school standardized test scores aren’t accurate at determining the effectiveness of a teacher.

Under the DOE’s own standards the demographics of teachers rated highly effective aligns almost identically with the true break down of teachers in the state.

Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hanna says he wants the Best and Brightest program gone.

 

“Quite honestly I’ve never been so excited to be sued,” said Hanna.

With the law suit the FEA hopes to have the Best and Brightest program declared illegal, and reward those unfairly excluded from receiving the more than $8,000 bonus.

One in eight Florida teachers are black, the same goes for hispanics yet less than 1% of the recipients of the Best and Brightest program are black. Only 4% are Hispanic.

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