Knox County teacher's high evaluation scores are literally paying off for them.
Bonuses totaling $3.6 million to 2,100 teachers and administrators have been or will be passed out this year.
The strategic compensation program, known as APEX, was implemented last year. The results of its first year were presented Monday night at a Knox County Board of Education work session.
"For all the work they [teachers] do that's unsung, I feel like many people will say, 'Hey we're finally being rewarded and compensated for the good job our teachers have been doing,'" said Nakia Towns, the Director of Human Capitol Strategy for Knox County Schools.
APEX stems off of the new state-wide teacher evaluation system, TEAM.
"We had gone from a situation where teachers were evaluated twice every 10 years to a situation where every teacher was evaluated every year," said Superintendent Jim McIntyre.
On a scale of one to five, the district reported 96% of its teachers scored a three or higher in the last school year.
APEX takes teachers TEAM score and then adds points for leadership and recognition of teaching in a high needs school.
Teachers receive $1,500 for a model performance and $2,000 for an exemplary performance.
"APEX says you are a teacher that has gone above and beyond and exceeded expectations," said Towns.
But not everyone agrees with APEX's criteria. The Knox County Education Association President, Sherry Morgan, feels the weight should be shifted.
"I would like to see more focus on the students. Especially teachers who work with students. Like anyone who sponsors a club. They put a lot of hours in and they don't get any money at all," Morgan said.
Dr. McIntyre said in its first year, there is still work to be done, but over all he is pleased with the results.
"We're gonna cut some checks in a few weeks here and I think that we really want to incent and reward the type of outstanding teachers that are going to lead to outstanding kids in the future," Dr. McIntyre said.
The bonuses are funded through Race to the Top and other federal grants. The District has $10 million to last 3-5 years. Knox County Schools said the goal is to incorporate APEX into the general operating budget if it continues to be successful.