North Carolina is ready to dole out $14 million in teacher merit bonuses this month, with rewards based on last year’s third-grade reading tests and exams that show high school students doing college-level work.
The state legislature approved the money in 2016, and the state Board of Education will vote this week to distribute it. The bonus programs are designed to reward teachers who help children start with strong basics, as well as those who send teens into the adult world with advanced skills.
The state set aside $10 million for third-grade teachers who ranked in the top 25 percent for the growth their students showed between the start and the end of last school year. Reading well by third grade is considered a key to success in future grades.
Third-grade teachers in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will collect a total of $915,280, more than any other district. Their counterparts in Wake County, the state’s largest district, are slated to get $739,610.
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The amount each teacher will collect varies by district because of the state’s complex distribution formula. Just over 1,300 teachers landed in the top 25 percent statewide. They’ll get $3,523 each. Each district also gets money to distribute to the top 25 percent among its own work force. According to a state report, those awards range from $1,824 in Jones County to $8,770 in Caswell County.
The high school bonus program awards teachers $50 for each passing score their students earn on Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams, up to $2,000 per teacher. Both are high-level classes, and the scores required to earn the bonus indicate students have mastered the work and may be eligible for college credit.
Wake County had 14,444 qualifying exams, for a total of $777,448 (the numbers aren’t round because the state also pays Social Security). CMS had 9,474 qualifying exams, bringing in $509,938 for teachers.
The state set aside $4.3 million for the AP/IB bonuses but there were only enough passing exams to distribute $3.6 million. The rest reverts to the state.
To collect either bonus, teachers must still be teaching the same subject in the same district.