Putting Education Reform To The Test

Florida Teachers Say Deadline To Apply For New Bonuses Is Unfair

Miami teacher Brigette Kinney qualifies for a new state bonus program, but may not be able to compete the paperwork in time.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Miami teacher Brigette Kinney holds copies of her GRE scores and the state law creating the new teacher bonus program. She qualifies for the bonus -- up to $10,000, depending on how many teachers qualify -- but may not be able to compete the paperwork in time.

Miami teacher Brigette Kinney said she doesn’t always hear about school news when classes are out for the summer.

So Kinney missed the word that lawmakers set aside $44 million for bonuses based on SAT and ACT scores during a special summer budget session. Teachers who scored in the top 20 percent the year they took the exam and earned a “highly effective” teacher evaluation are eligible.

But Kinney said she didn’t learn about the bonuses until she returned to school in August — and that may have been too late.

The deadline to apply for the scholarships is Thursday. Kinney meets the requirements, but she’s not sure if her scores will arrive in time.

“I was told it would take two to four weeks to get my score, which I knew was going to be very tight” said Kinney, who teaches English and design in the International Baccalaureate program at Ada Merritt K-8 center.

She called back after three weeks and a supervisor told her SAT had been flooded with requests.

“And he told me that, frankly, there was no way I was going to get my score reports by October 1st.

Kinney took the SAT in 1988. She’s got her Graduate Record Examination scores — the entrance exam for graduate school. She even found IQ scores at her parents home. But teachers can only qualify for the bonuses with ACT or SAT scores – which excludes foreign-born teachers who never took the exams.

Last week Kinney learned that she could submit college transcripts, but Florida State University couldn’t get those to her before the October 1st, either.

UPDATE: Florida State will release records to a third party, so Kinney is having a friend pick up copies Tuesday, scan them and email them to Kinney to submit.

The companies which run ACT and SAT – the two biggest college entrance exams – say they’ve been inundated by Florida teachers needing a copy of their scores.

“We’ve had a much higher volume of requests,” said Ed Colby, spokesman for ACT. “We’re working hard to meet the deadline.”

ACT is expediting transcript requests and sending them priority mail — for free — to make sure teachers receive them on time.

Colby said that Florida is the only state he knows of paying teachers bonuses based on college entrance exam scores.

“The volume of requests for archived score reports has been higher than usual this year,” Jose Rios, a spokesman for The College Board, which runs the SAT,  said by email, “so some requests may be taking longer to fulfill than indicated on the order form.”

Florida Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters said the agency can’t do anything to change Thursday deadline because it’s written into state law.

Younger teachers can receive scores more quickly online. But Kinney said the deadline isn’t fair for veteran teachers who have to wait for a paper copy.

Efforts to reach Miami Rep. Erik Fresen, who proposed the scholarships, were unsuccessful.

If lots of teachers qualify, the bonuses could be much less than $10,000. But Kinney is a single mother and said the money could help pay for a master’s degree.

“Which is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” she said, “but haven’t been able to afford to do. And that would be a good investment in my salary permanently.”


  • George

    What a stupid law. A bonus for EXISTING employees based on their personal high school test scores? It takes some special kind of legislator to write something up without putting more than 2 minutes thought into it.

    • bottledwater55

      Florida school system is light years behind Maryland’s… I attended Maryland school in middle school and they were way ahead of Fla. No wonder… many government officials children probably attended those schools. Plus look at the governor (current gov/leader: Rick Scott) of Florida and the one before him: Jeb Bush. That should explain a lot!

  • Christopher Beaulieu

    I am so sorry that the woman in the story might not get her scores on time, but what about the teachers who can’t get scores, who don’t have scores in the 80th percentile, but who still teach their hearts out and are successful. The whole thing is so wrong to begin with. I would be ashamed to complain that I couldn’t get my high test scores on time, when there are so many teachers, those who also need to pay for post graduate education, family, and food. The state has pitted teachers against teachers, yet again, with this ridiculous and archaic way of making us do battle against one another for our salaries. Maybe the state should have us compete in an arena with weapons and battle for the money. We are degraded by this and the all of the other “incentive” programs the state dreams up.

    • me

      The state has some extra funding for bonuses. Wonder where that funding came from? Now let me see, National Board Certified teachers’ bonuses were discontinued due to lack of funding. How about you give an option of either using the SAT or NBCT and Highly Qualified? Even so, teachers on assignment are still out of luck. They don’t qualify because instead of working with a classroom of students, they work with their entire school or district’s students.
      No wonder why education gets a bad rap! The outsiders looking in are like, “what?” and the insiders are like, “what isn’t even the half of it!” Maybe the kids could come up with a better plan. I wonder if they were even asked? No matter how you slice it, this is a process that is not equitable or fair but apparently is happening.
      Who ya gonna call…Russell Crowe?

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