MIAMI ( – Some hard working Miami-Dade teachers got a little extra money in their pockets Monday afternoon when Superintendent Alberto Carvalho distributed funds under a new performance pay plan which was announced earlier this year.

The statewide merit pay plan will not take effect until 2014, but Miami-Dade got a head start this year.

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Roughly 85 percent of the Miami-Dade districts more than 20,000 teachers will qualify for extra money, based on their students’ FCAT scores. Most of the bonuses will range from $500 to more than $1,500, according to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald.

Around 120 teachers received bonuses today ranging from 4,000-25,000 during a ceremony at Miami BeachSenior High School.   The 12 teachers with the highest gains in FCAT math and reading scores over the past three years received $25,000 dollars.

“It really shows all my hard work and my students’ hard work,” said$25,000 recipient Joseph Bimonte.   The 9th grade language arts teacher added, “it really helps especially with supplies and paying out of pocket it really helps.”

Another 25,000 dollar recipient, Patricia Woods said it’s rewarding to win the highest prize, “hard work pays off it’s a lot of hard work but it pays off.”

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Funding for the performance pay plan, up to $14 million this year, comes from a Race to the Top grant from the United States Department of Education.

Carvalho chaired the Governor’s Working Group that developed a memorandum of understanding and a successful application that resulted inFloridareceiving more than $700 million in Race to the Top funds, which equated to $350 million for school districts across the state.

Miami-Dade is the largest district to tackle merit pay after areas like Texas and New York have scrapped or deeply slashed their merit-pay systems due to lack of money and results.

“Even though it’s not a perfect system, it is the best one in the nation,” Carvalho said. “It was done — rather than by imposition — through negotiation.”

But the president of United Teachers of Dade worries performance-based pay isn’t something teachers can rely on to pay the bills.  Karen Aronowitz likened the pay to winning a Nobel Prize, “this is fabulous,” she said, “these are the top teachers and we’re very proud of them at the same time no one can base an career on the hopes of winning a Nobel Prize.”

She says she wants to see teachers earn a higher base pay.  Teachers in Dade start out making less than 40,000 dollars a year.

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