Florida Teachers Refuse Bonuses For High Test Scores

K-12 Testing

To protest a system of cash rewards based on test scores, some elementary school teachers in Florida have turned down bonuses they were slated to receive as a result of their schools’ high performance on the state exam.


Six teachers from Gulf Gate Elementary traveled six hours to return their bonuses to Governor Jeb Bush to focus attention on what they see as a misuse of the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test (FCAT) to rank schools. Under the Governor’s “A+” plan, schools that received an “A” due to high average scores on the test are awarded $100 per student. Parents at schools receiving an “F” for two consecutive years, most likely schools in poor communities, will automatically be eligible to receive vouchers to attend private schools.


“Our message is that relying on the test to judge schools ignores the relation between socioeconomics and test scores,” explained one Gulf Gate teacher. “Ranking schools this way will unfairly punish schools serving poor students.”


While the state claims the rewards will improve learning, teachers claim that pressure to raise test scores is having the opposite effect on education. “This test is a roadblock to real school reform,” said Gulf Gate principal Catherine Kitts. “It prevents us from keeping up with new information and technologies in teaching because we are tied to this single test. Our teachers’ backs are to the wall. Even our best teachers are forced to focus only on this test.”


Other high scoring schools protested the plan by giving their reward money to schools that needed help. Principal Steve Largo of the Pine View School for the Gifted in Osprey explained his school’s donation: “The whole grading of schools is misguided and fundamentally wrong. We’re going to make the best of it.”


Teachers are now discussing next steps for stopping the use of the FCAT as a single measure for ranking schools and measuring student achievement. While the Governor dismissed the protesters as a bunch of “grandstanders,” Gulf Gate teachers say that letters from across the state thanking them for speaking out and “many positive comments from parents” have encouraged them to continue their efforts.