Lawmakers tie teacher bonuses to SAT scores

How much do 40-year-old SAT scores impact a teacher’s ability in the classroom in 2016? Apparently quite a bit, according to the Florida Legislature.

The Florida Senate Education Committee started the Florida Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program last summer. The idea is the brainchild of Republican Erik Fresen of Miami, who is sponsoring  House Bill 7043 in the current legislative session in Tallahassee.

Although Democrats oppose it, the bill passed 9-4 House committee on Thursday and is headed to the chamber floor for consideration.  This legislation allows current and incoming teachers the opportunity to receive up to a $10,000 bonus based on how well they scored on their SAT and ACT. Those scoring in the top 20 percent of their graduating class are eligible. Although this sounds like a great opportunity for teachers, some of them aren’t eligible to be compared to their graduating class and would have to take the SAT or ACT 40 or more years after they have finished high school.

Math teacher Jill Whitacre graduated from Eau Gallie High School in 1974, and went to a community college where she didn’t have to take the ACT or SAT to get in, but rather took a college entrance exam.

“Here I am, it has been 41 years since I was in high school, when I would have prepared for the SAT and probably done best at it. Yet I am going to have young teachers coming into the profession making more salary than I make because they get a $10,000 bonus,” Whitacre said.”I take on a lot of responsibility. I mentor teachers,  I am the class sponsor, the gifted coordinator, and they are going to expect the teachers who have been in the profession a long time to mentor them. That’s going to be a hard pill to swallow.”

Whitacre, a past West Shore Teacher of the Year, has taught in Brevard County all of her life.

“They’re trying to attract the brightest teachers, and if there was some kind of grandfathering in, I think that would be great, like take the money and look at how many teachers you have and figure out how much can you give them and then offer that bonus to the people who are coming in. Somehow [you need to] reward your teachers who are here and then start to say OK now we are going to do this for the next generation,” Whitacre said. “But to not do something for your teachers who are here it feels like a slap in the face to the rest of us.”

Spanish teacher Luis Martin is a former Brevard County Teacher of the Year, but because he was born in a outside of the United States, he didn’t have to take the ACT or SAT to get into college.

“I think [the scholarship program] a great idea except for the fact that as a foreigner I didn’t have to have SAT to be accepted to a university in the United States,” Martin said. “No one in my graduating class took them. They’ll probably compare them to newer or random scores, which again I think is not fair.”

By Allie Henderson