Does the test make the teacher? Florida to reward teachers based on their high school SAT/ACT scores.

I am all for recognizing excellence in teaching and rewarding effective teachers. But it seems crazy to go back to high school test scores to determine excellence. That’s exactly what the state of Florida is doing in a new awards policy that relies on a first-year teacher’s SAT or ACT score in the absence of any classroom track record.

Despite its title, Florida’s new Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program is a bonus rather than a scholarship. The Florida Legislature just set aside $44 million for the bonuses, which can climb as high as $10,000.

The state estimates 4,402 teachers or more could be eligible based “high academic achievement on the SAT or ACT.” Teachers already in the classroom would also have to show they’ve been rated “highly effective” in their evaluations.

no hedI find the veneration of SAT/ACT scores puzzling given the growing number of colleges making such admissions tests optional. Florida prides itself on digging deep into data to drive its education reforms, but the research is cloudy on whether strong SAT or ACT scores correlate with highly effective teaching.

(Here is a good paper out of Dartmouth on what factors predict whether someone will be an effective teacher. On the issue of SAT/ACT scores, the researchers note: “One problem with interpreting the relation between successful teaching and college entrance exam scores is that performance on standardized achievement tests is determined by a host of different factors: access to educational resources in childhood, parental investment in education, personal motivation and willingness to study hard, raw intelligence, etc.”)

Depending on the single score of a test taken in high school to designate high performing teachers is sparking criticism.

From the Tampa Bay Times:

To award extra pay based on a test taken as a high schooler, therefore, made little sense to some, especially for veteran teachers in their 30s and older. “A college entrance exam from high school is not a suitable or appropriate predictor for which of those smart students are going to be great teachers,” said Jean Clements, president of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association.

She also couldn’t miss that the amount of a Best and Brightest scholarship came close to the added pay teachers used to get after earning National Board certification. Lawmakers stopped budgeting for that program, which many deemed more meaningful than a master’s degree, arguing the certification did not have a strong correlation to student outcomes.

“These individuals went through a grueling process that showed they were the tops in their field. But that was swept aside,” Florida Education Association spokesman Mark Pudlow said. “Now, we have this.”

Here is the official explanation of the “scholarships” from the state of Florida web site:

Beginning in the 2015-2016 school year the scholarship program shall provide funding for scholarships to be awarded to teachers who have demonstrated a high level of academic achievement. To be eligible for a scholarship, a teacher must have scored at or above the 80th percentile on either the SAT or ACT based upon the percentile ranks in effect when the teacher took the assessment and also have been evaluated as highly effective pursuant to s. 1012.34, F.S.

However, a first-year teacher who has not been evaluated is also eligible if the teacher scored at or above the 80th percentile on either the SAT or ACT based upon the percentile ranks in effect when the teacher took the assessment. Teachers must provide an official record of his or her SAT or ACT score no later than October 1 to demonstrate eligibility for the award. Once a teacher is deemed eligible by the school district, the teacher remains eligible as long as he or she is employed by the school district and maintains or, if the teacher is a first-year teacher, earns the evaluation designation of highly effective pursuant to s. 1012.34, F.S. School districts must submit to the department the number of eligible teachers annually, by December 1. The department shall disburse funding annually, by February 1, in an amount prescribed in the General Appropriations Act (GAA), to each school district for each eligible teacher to receive a scholarship. If the number of eligible teachers exceeds the total appropriation authorized in the GAA, the department is required to prorate the award amount for each teacher.

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65 comments
Disgusted Teacher
Disgusted Teacher

This is such an unfair assessment of teacher pay/performance.  My SAT scores were good enough to get me into the University of Florida.  With 22 years experience, I have a master's degree,  National Board certification, multiple local and state teaching awards and my students ranked #1 in the state of Florida for 10th grade FCAT writes in 2014 (West Shore Jr/Sr) .  I have always had 'distinguished' evaluations. I will not qualify for the $10,000 bonus because I had 'average' national SAT scores. (Not top 20%).  There are plenty of people who could blow the top off a math or English test but do not have the finesse to hold the attention of 150 high school students every day, for over 22 years.  This is the dumbest thing I've ever heard of.  No one who is in the top 20% of any brain power would agree with the logic of this type of 'teacher assessment'.  Even ACT and SAT companies, when interviewed, said this is NOT the purpose of their test.  It is not a predictor nor an indicator of a good teacher.  

FLTeacher
FLTeacher

This is interesting.  My gut reaction was that it sucks. But then I thought about it a little bit more.  It's not only the highest SAT scores that get the money, but the high SAT scores combined with the "highly effective" ranking.  Lawmakers are dangling the carrot in front of the brightest and incentivizing them to work the hardest and become the best. Smart, lazy people aren't getting the money. Smart, incompetent people aren't getting the money.  Only smart, hard-working people are. Creating a culture where bright, competent people work hard to become highly effective teachers truly is in the best interest of our students and schools. I don't think this will encourage more engineers to switch to teaching. However, it might help some of the good teachers find a reason to stay. Too many of the best and brightest leave early on, when they realize what a hassle this job entails. A little bit of extra cash might be enough to help drive these young teachers through their hardest first years. 


It seems intuitive that people who earn high test scores are better at teaching others how to earn high test scores. That's why Kaplan test prep requires their SAT and GRE tutors to have earned scores in the 90th percentile or above. And high stakes testing is what education is all about these days, isn't it? It's where the dollars are, for sure. If this works, this move is really a win for Florida lawmakers. They end up with a reputation for having the brightest teachers working the hardest to help students, and theoretically because these teachers are working so hard, we'll see student test scores rise. 


It seems a bit discriminatory to me to offer financial rewards for being smart, so I have a feeling a lawsuit will bring this down at some point.  But I find it fascinating to think about the possible implications here. 

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

I couldn't even read past the first few paragraphs.  This is the dumbest teacher incentive plan I've ever heard of.   SAT test scores have no bearing on teaching performance!  OMG.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

Two conflicting thoughts:

1) Writing as a bona fide standardized test-taking machine, this seems like a really stupid idea.  There must be a whole host of factors that account for successful teaching beyond 5, 10, or 20 year old test scores.  This, coming from a National Merit Scholarship semi-finalist, is not simply sour grapes ("SEMI-finalist you say?  Yes, even if you kill on the PSAT, you don't get to be a finalist with a C average in high school).


2) That said, the sponsors are likely, and rightly, concerned with the data that show average SAT scores for colleges of Education to be lower than many other majors.  I would tend to think that overall, we WOULD prefer smart teachers.  At least as much we want smart doctors and engineers.  Lawyers - meh.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

This SAT/ACT bonus will last just long enough for the politicos and educrats  to realize that those scores correlate with the racial IQ hierarchy.  Wait until the black teachers  realize that white teachers are getting a disproportionate amount of the bonuses and they will start to scream bloody murder.


Who knows, they (black teachers) might even decide to flash mob a Walmart....

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@gactzn2

What's that, tell the inconvenient truth everywhere I go?  Yes I do.

FlaTony
FlaTony

A one time payment is only a small part of the package of benefits needed to attract and RETAIN the best qualified teachers. To retain, our state leaders are going to have to realize that pay is needed. That is, salary strucuture, benefits, and retirement packages that make it worth commuting a lifetime to teaching.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@FlaTony "benefits needed to attract and RETAIN the best qualified teachers."

What they need to focus on is not money at all - it is working conditions.  Teachers need 100% support from their administrators - deal effectively with the discipline problems, deal with students who have attendance issues, don't promote a student into my classroom that has no mastery over the past year's subject matter.

gactzn2
gactzn2

You would be surprised at the number of principals who try to "counsel out" teachers they deem as smart enough to be doing something else.  Lots of administrators prefer you not question anything and shut up and do what you are told.  

popacorn
popacorn

@gactzn2 Smart, creative teachers are a threat to the status quo. 

FLTeacher
FLTeacher

@gactzn2 I've been a teacher for ten years and worked at four different schools in Orange County, FL. I've worked with five different principals and at least double that number of assistant principals. I have never heard of this happening.  Only one administrator (an AP) throughout my career has expressed the opinion that I should shut up and do what I'm told.  You're right, if the number is as high as you imply, I would be very surprised. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

So what is the average SAT score of a person getting an education degree versus, say, an engineering degree?  Higher SAT score = smarter person.  Don't we want smarter teachers?


I know that there are no teachers' unions in the State of Georgia, but what I am hearing from teachers is the same thing I heard from union operations I worked at:  we don't want any differentiation based on skill or ability - everyone has to make the same - only difference can come from seniority.  We don't want to be judged - we want the laziest to be paid the same as the hardest working (and that make the hard worker question WHY he is working so hard - in some cases his compatriots will tell him to slow down). 


College GPAs may not be indicative of learning for the same reason that high school GPSs are worthless - grade inflation. 

SaraK
SaraK

It's not a bad idea but they still aren't going to be able to attract the best and brightest unless they also improve other aspects of the career. This isn't going to make the wannabe engineers flock to teaching. Making 30k on a one-year contract with no job security and in an underfunded, chaotic work environment with no backup from administration concerning discipline issues is just not worth it. People with better prospects rightfully avoid teaching like the plague.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@class80olddog


"...what I am hearing from teachers is the same thing I heard from union operations I worked at:  we don't want any differentiation based on skill or ability - everyone has to make the same - only difference can come from seniority.  We don't want to be judged - we want the laziest to be paid the same as the hardest working..."


If that is what you are hearing, then I am not sure you have been "listening".

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Quidocetdiscit @class80olddog You show me one post where a teacher says "Less skilled teachers (as measured in the classroom) should be paid less, while more skilled teachers (not based on degrees or certificates) should make more".  I certainly have not seen any.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@class80olddog @Quidocetdiscit


No, but I doubt you have seen teachers saying, "...we don't want any differentiation based on skill or ability - everyone has to make the same - only difference can come from seniority.  We don't want to be judged - we want the laziest to be paid the same as the hardest working..." either.  


What you HAVE seen is teachers saying over and over, that we currently do not have a reasonable way of determining WHO the lazy teachers are.  I would LOVE for better, harder working teachers to be paid more.   However, since districts, schools, subjects taught and student ability vary so much it is nearly impossible to determine the inherent "goodness" or "badness" of teachers.  Using student test scores can sometimes only show which teachers have the easier students to teach.  You cannot judge an art teacher with the same criteria as a Special Ed teacher or a Gifted teacher or a teacher of regular ed with four students who speak no English or a teacher with numerous discipline .  So some folks have tired fancy formulas like VAM which are supposed to take into account all kinds of variables and then spit out a "score" for each teacher...only problem is, they have been shown to be totally flawed.  So until someone actually comes up with a reasonable method of measuring teacher "effectiveness" I prefer to err on the side of caution, rather than risk poor teachers getting bonuses and good teachers getting shafted, 


Furthermore, when you start deciding that "some" teachers are more important than other ones... i.e. "Let's pay all the math teachers more" or "High school teachers should be paid more than elementary teachers" or "Special Ed teachers should make more than regular ed teachers" then you start creating resentment within the ranks of teachers, and in a GOOD SCHOOL, teachers of ALL types frequently work together to assist ALL the students.  Having some teachers be paid more because someone decided they are more important will lead to a competitive type mindset that is fundamentally contrary to what good education actually is...  Business types do not think this way, therefore they often are not able to comprehend why teachers are against this type of competitive school environment.  



Astropig
Astropig

All of you people criticizing this-What would you say to a Florida teacher that got this scholarship and used it to pay down/pay off student debt? Would you tell them to give the money back and apologize for making good scores? Looked at this way,I don't think that its such a crazy idea at all. Consider it a retroactive scholarship. Here in Georgia,we have retroactive diplomas and the system hasn't totally crashed (yet). If it gets money into the hands of deserving young teachers,what is the downside?


I'm simply astonished that the opposition seems to be from...Teachers? Is this opposite day? 

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Astropig


Maybe because, as teachers, we realize how silly it is to base a job related bonus upon scores on a test you took BEFORE you actually took any type of classwork at all related to your job!  It is not that we are against bonuses, it is that we are against determining who should get one based upon such a ridiculous criteria!  


I suspect that this decision was made because they just could not think of another way to handle those teachers for whom they had no other way of "measuring"  their work, but that does not make it any less silly.    Why not college GPA? 

Astropig
Astropig

@Quidocetdiscit @Astropig


Your focus here is all wrong. Why do you even care if the state does this? Some teachers are getting some money,but no teachers are having money taken away, so is your response not just the politics of envy,or base jealousy? As they say, state your interest. I pay taxes down there and I'm fine with it. You don't have any dog in the fight,but you're opposed.Seems like a knee jerk reaction to something that doesn't really have any practical effect on you.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Astropig @Quidocetdiscit

@Quidocetdiscit

@QuidocetdiscitWhy do you even care if the state does this? "


Maybe because I cannot  help but recognize silliness when I see it, whether or not it happens to have a direct effect on me... I am just funny that way, I guess.  I do not  have to have a vested interest to have an opinion.

FLTeacher
FLTeacher

@Quidocetdiscit @Astropig


I wish that the SAT score part was left out and the bonus was given to all highly effective teachers.  The problem is that the teacher evaluation method is incredibly subjective. Within one school, administrators who receive the same training and all use the same tool can still end up evaluating teachers differently.  There isn't a fair way to do this. I don't think SAT scores work.  But neither do college GPAs.  You can be the best and the brightest, but without people skills, you fail at teaching. Teaching is a relationship-based job. There's just no fair and reasonable way to measure that. 

LaKeisha
LaKeisha

Look for another cheating scandal with teachers changing answers....

bu2
bu2

Basically this sounds like a scholarship program that isn't awarded until after you go to work.


Not sure if something so delayed will have the desired effect of getting students into teaching.  At 18, 4 years is a lifetime.

Intteach
Intteach

Does it mean you are better lawyer and should receive a bonus because you had a higher SAT/ACT score? A better doctor, a better nurse? Are you a better administrator because you scored higher on a test that has absolutely nothing to do with the art of teaching? If subject matter knowledge is the non plus ultra then why do we not have more college professors of medieval literature teaching in high schools? Usually, the high schools pay better than a non-tenure track college position. I will start giving an extra tip to my waiter or waitress if they show me their SAT score - the test taken before their career will finally tell me whether my service was good or bad.

Starik
Starik

@Intteach There's not a perfect correlation between scores and achievement. but when lawyers, doctors and nurses have hiring decisions they look at the program that produced them, which probably looked at scores with interest.  Lawyers & doctors have to pass a rigorous exam before they can work their profession.  Teachers do not.  It's still too easy to become a lawyer in most places.


Every school system should publish the test scores and, at a minimum the degrees held by teaching staff.  How can a teacher teach what they do not know?

Astropig
Astropig

@Starik @Intteach


Doctors,lawyers and nurses have a wide range of potential employers (including the government in some cases). Teachers have a much narrower market in which to offer their services. By far,the largest part of that market is public schools. Since public schools use public money,their compensation policies (like the one being debated here) are set by the elected government. For whatever reason,this is a metric that they will be using for the foreseeable future to add to some teachers compensation. Not worth getting upset about. It will help some teachers. For others,life's not going to change much.

Intteach
Intteach

@Starik @Intteach 

Your first sentence says it all: There's no perfect correlation between scores and achievement. So would you want to give your doctor a bonus because he/she had a great SAT score or because they provided an excellent service? I prefer the latter.

popacorn
popacorn

Wouldn't want one teaching my kid, either. 

FLTeacher
FLTeacher

@Intteach Good point. High test scores don't make you better at any career. However, the money will only be given to those who earn the "highly effective" ranking. So you only need to ask the really great servers for their SAT scores from now on. :) 

FLTeacher
FLTeacher

@Astropig @Starik @Intteach

Teachers definitely have a narrow market. For those of us who have no desire to become administrators, there aren't really many other ways to get ahead in this career. 

Dena2470
Dena2470

@FLTeacher @Intteach Your statement is not true. New teachers, with no evaluation scores of their performance (since they have none) are also eligible to receive this bonus based solely on their SAT or ACT scores.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

If high academic performance is preferable for teachers, maybe a better idea would be to require higher ACT/SAT/GRE and GPA scores for entrance into educational degree programs. But perhaps the educational marketplace would not want to fund education reform to that extent.

popacorn
popacorn

The great golfer Lee Trevino once said the reason he never had a coach or listened to suggestions is that no teacher/coach could ever beat him on the course. Achieving excellence on the SAT will, in many cases, require that the student outperform the teachers by a wide margin. Is this the best scenario?

Starik
Starik

We need a testing regime of some kind, a legitimate one, for teachers.  Screening out the worst ones would be a start, and I wouldn't have a problem with using SAT/Act in the absence of an alternative.

class80olddog
class80olddog

I had suggested that instead of using STUDENT scores (which only measure student's efforts) for teacher evaluation, use a teacher evaluation that consists of two parts:  How well they know the subject matter, and How well they can impart it to their students.  The SAT score is an important part of the first. 

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

One wonders what the response would be if various corporations decided to start offering bonuses to employees  based upon one's ACT/SAT scores.  I suspect some would change their tune.


I am concerned that GA may go to a merit system, in which only teachers receiving a majority of "exemplary" scores on their evaluations would be eligible. We seem to be moving that way based upon the most recent changes in our certification process.  The problem is that it is almost impossible to "earn" an exemplary score if you are evaluated honestly.  You would have to do everything perfectly in every subject for every child 100% of the time.  We were pretty much told not to expect to reach Exemplary because it was an unrealistic expectation unless you never go home and have no other life but teaching and school.  I know some awesome teachers and very few received many exemplary scores. On the other hand, if your administrators play favorites and give out "Exemplary" scores as some kind of reward or token of appreciation, then yes, you might get a lot of them, but then that is not fair to those who are evaluated by honest administrators.  And if they DO start using our evaluations to determine pay, then I anticipate a lot more "Exemplary" scores being given, even though we did not really earn them.


And I already know what some of the posters will say... they will say a "good teacher" should be able to make the "Exemplary" level across the board...but I also know what that entails, and I assure you, no, they really cannot.  It would be akin to saying an oncologist should cure every patient, or a lawyer should win every case, or a jockey should win every race... it is just unrealistic.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Astropig @Quidocetdiscit


Shocking, I know...


But seriously, the question becomes, should good teachers suffer and get paid less BECAUSE the administrators want to play politics?  Going to a merit pay system just lends itself to allowing for even more corruption in the system. 

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Astropig @Quidocetdiscit


Not necessarily.  Some  states have reduced the pay of veteran teachers by establishing a "base" salary which is far lower than the teachers were making - the idea being that you would then make merit bonuses on top of that.  The problem is, even with "merit" pay, those veteran teachers are not making what they did before the change.  Merit pay has been proposed as a way to "save taxpayers money."  You can't do that unless you are actually paying teachers LESS overall than you were before.

Astropig
Astropig

@Quidocetdiscit @Astropig


Okay- has any teacher,anywhere gotten a paycheck that is less than they agreed to or less than the paycheck they got the year before? Have they taken a pay cut? If so, then even I'm opposed- A deal's a deal. BUT...


...If they sign a contract for XX amount and that's what they are paid,then they have no grounds to be grouchy. They can always take their talents elsewhere. If they feel like it's not a fair wage, they can walk.

taylor48
taylor48

You must not have been around a few years ago when teachers got furloughed in the summer AFTER we'd signed our contracts. Sonny couldn't seem to find money for us, but he was able to fund his pet Go Fish project. And the South Perry parkway. That worked out well.

Astropig
Astropig

@Quidocetdiscit


So you're saying that the system suffers from so much internal rot that it can't readily distinguish between good and not-so-good teachers? You're saying that back-stabbing administrators would play...POLITICS?! In the schools? 


I lost a little innocence here tonight.

class80olddog
class80olddog

OH MY GOODNESS!  Reward teachers for independent verification that they actually know something?  That's terrible!  Of course, I would use the GRE instead of the old SAT/ACT scores. 

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@class80olddog


Using the GRE at least makes some sense, whereas the ACT/SAT scores indicated where a "teacher" was before they possibly even contemplated being a teacher and took a single class.  However, many people do not take the GRE, which may be why they are trying to use the ACT/SAT scores.

popacorn
popacorn

I believe Georgia uses another test. Praxis was too hard.