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By Letitia Stein, Times Staff Writer
Published February 24, 2008
Even among Hillsborough County teachers, there has been considerable confusion over how the Merit Award Program works. Here are some answers:
What is MAP?
Florida lawmakers created the Merit Award Program last spring. They wanted to pay teachers for performance instead of just experience and educational degree.
How much money was given out?
About 4,700 Hillsborough educators received bonuses of $2,100 at the beginning of the school year. That totals more than $10-million that teachers otherwise would not have seen. The bonus amounted to 5 percent of an average teacher's salary in the district.
Who can get merit pay?
By state law, instructional personnel and school-based administrators are eligible, including teachers, guidance counselors and school social workers. No one had to sign up for the plan. Districts and teacher unions decided whether to participate, and Hillsborough was the only countyto do so in the Tampa Bay region.
How did educators qualify for merit pay?
By state law, at least 60 percent of the determination was based on student test scores. Hillsborough used FCAT data when available, as well as other standardized tests and district semester exams. A performance evaluation determined 40 percent of the rating.
Are teachers ranked?
Teachers received an overall rating, which was converted into a percentile ranking used to compare them to their peers. For example, elementary reading teachers last year were compared to other elementary reading teachers around the county. Hillsborough created complex mathematical tables to level the playing field among educators. Teachers earned points for student learning gains, regardless of where their students started out.
Is there a standard to meet to get merit pay?
Not really. In giving out the bonuses, Hillsborough started at the top of the ranking order in every instructional category and worked its way down until the state funding ran out. Educators just below the 65th percentile did not get the bonuses.
What's changing this year?
Hillsborough is making many adjustments, but the biggest is the decision to judge teachers at high-poverty elementary and middle schools separately from colleagues at more affluent campuses. High school teachers will be divided by course level.
Why is merit pay for teachers controversial?
Generally, teachers are paid by experience and educational attainment, which some say doesn't reflect effectiveness. Merit pay is all about changing the rules. The pros and cons are many. Many teachers don't like drawing distinctions within a team setting. Others say it's unfair to judge them by student performance on a high-stakes test. Supporters say teachers deserve to be rewarded for results.
[Last modified February 23, 2008, 23:04:00]