'A'-School Recognition Dollars May Not Get Home for Christmas
Around the State
Staffers at Florida's "A"-rated schools shouldn't count on getting their 2011 bonus money by Christmas.
"School recognition" funds totaling more than $100 million have been delayed by the state's new grading formula for high schools, and the Department of Education will not release any award dollars until those calculations are complete.
"We expect high school grades no earlier than mid-December, perhaps later," DOE spokeswoman Cheryl Etters told Sunshine State News.
If the disbursements are made by mid-December, local districts could get the cash to employees by Christmas -- but that will be cutting it close, said Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association.
"There's a lot of anxiety out there. Usually, the amounts have been allocated by the first of October," Blanton said.
The hitch this year has been the state's new formula for designating "A"-level high schools. Heretofore, all campus grades were based strictly on FCAT results from the previous academic year.
That's still the case for elementary and middle schools, but the high school grades for 2010-2011 were determined by a broader combination of indicators, including participation and performance in Advanced Placement classes, graduation rates and "industry certification," as well as FCAT scores.
Etters said some of the data necessary to compile high school grades was not available until this fall.
Because FCAT scores generally decline at higher grade levels, the test's diminished weight in the new calculation yielded more "A" high schools this year. That's expected to slice the recognition-dollar pie thinner, Blanton said.
For the previous 2009-2010 year, 305 high schools received a total of $36.1 million in recognition awards, with campus disbursements ranging as high as $295,000.
That year, 1,499 elementary and middle schools received a total of $80.9 million, with the largest allocation being $182,000.
"In the defense of the Department of Education, they're having trouble with the new formula," Blanton said. "I'd rather that they be right than to have them allocate the wrong amount."
Champing at the bit, personnel at "A"-rated schools have already determined how they want to divvy up the cash, with most campuses voting to split it evenly among all staffers -- instructional and non-instructional.
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