The bell rings at Mort Elementary and within seconds, students spill out of the doors. It's time to ditch the backpacks and get ready to play.
But inside the school, their teachers have no time to rest. They are scouring over data. In one classroom, Amber MacDonald leads a team of 5th grade teachers. They're going over the latest math division test, which many students failed.
"Tell me your kids that need remediation," says Amber to one teacher.
Mort Elementary is a Title 1 Renaissance school, where 97 percent of the students are on free or reduced lunches. Here, they have a lot of challenges other than school.
"Our kids, when they do show, many are hungry, they don't have proper clothes on, they don't have proper school supplies. Some of our kindergartners, they don't know their letters or their numbers," MacDonald said.
Now, the U.S. Department of Education wants to recognize and reward some of these teachers. They have awarded Hillsborough County $59 million over five years. Teachers in challenged schools (Title 1, free and reduced lunches, etc) qualify.
The money rewards teachers for success, by showing student achievement.
It's not the first time teachers have received incentives. Cheri Bollinger was a teacher the first time around when bonus money was given out. Now, she's an assistant principal at Mort Elementary.
"It's almost like a ‘thank you' for all the hard work and extra time you put in, above and beyond your normal school day," Bollinger said.
Teachers at 30 schools in Hillsborough County are eligible for the money. It's expected the bonus money could be anywhere from $1,000 up to $2,000 for each teacher.
Amber MacDonald welcomes the idea of making more money. She believes teachers at high poverty schools do have a tougher time.
"We have to figure out what gets them, what excites them. What can we do to make them want to sit down to read, to want to sit down and work on this math problem, to want to work with kids and their teachers," MacDonald said.
Many parents are all for it, saying it'll only benefit the kids.
"I think it's about time they have an incentive to do good with children. There's a lot of kids that need help. And there's some parents that are too busy to give that help to the children," said Krystal Gilliam, a mom to 6-year-old Leena.
The hope is also that good teachers will want to stay at these more challenged schools because of the potential for more money.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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