University of Michigan study suggests that Algebra 2 isn’t enough math to be college-ready. Should Bright Futures require Precalculus?

I argue that Precalculus should indeed be required for Bright Futures in this StateImpact Florida opinion piece.

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What I would do if I had $44 million to implement a differential pay program for teachers

Paul Cottle:

Florida is now going to spend $44 million on a differential teacher pay program in 2015-16. Unfortunately, the $10,000 bonuses will be based on the scores teachers earned on their own SAT or ACT scores in high school. In this post from January of this year, I describe what I would do if someone gave me a substantial amount of money for a teacher differential pay program:  use it for raising the pay of teachers who are willing to teach in high needs schools and for teachers in subjects where there are critical shortages, including math, science and ESE. $44 million could have made quite a positive splash if used that way.

Originally posted on Bridge to Tomorrow:

The data almost scream an answer to the shortage of teachers in math and certain sciences:  Pay higher salaries to teachers in those subjects!

A similar differential pay strategy would probably also be the most effective way to attack the problem of high teacher turnover in schools with large numbers of kids from disadvantaged backgrounds – pay high-performing teachers more to work in high-needs schools.

So why hasn’t differential pay caught on in policy circles or on the ground in the school districts?

Because both large constituencies in the public education debates – defenders of the traditional public school systems (who are most often liberal) and “reformers” (who are most often conservative) – are opposed to it, although for different reasons.

Defenders of traditional school systems like the conventional salary schedule system in which teacher pay is determined by the number of years of experience of a teacher and the teacher’s graduate…

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Florida Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program featured in Washington Post’s Answer Sheet

The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss has discovered the Florida Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program, and she’s not impressed.

In her blog Answer SheetStrauss cites Jeff Solochek’s Tampa Bay Times article and calls the program “kooky”.

Strauss also talked with Bob Schaeffer, the public education director of FairTest, who predictably pointed out that using SAT and ACT scores as they will be for the program “violates the test-makers’ own standards for proper use of the exam and results.”

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Tampa Bay Times’ Jeff Solochek gets to the bottom of the Florida Teacher Scholarship Program

Jeff did a very nice job diagnosing the scholarship program for Sunday’s Tampa Bay Times.

I have a quote in there, but it is a relief to see I am far from the only person upset about this program.  I was starting to wonder whether I was losing my mind.

My number one question was this:  Whose idea was it?  The answer is House Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Erik Fresen, who says he was inspired to propose the program by reading Amanda Ripley’s The Smartest Kids in the World.  

One wonders what Amanda Ripley would think of the Florida Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program.

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Commissioner Stewart’s SBOE meeting comments prove that science still isn’t a priority for the State of Florida

I am generally a Pam Stewart fan.

When I think of Pam, I think of the Elastic Commissioner, one of her hands holding Governor Scott’s hand and being pulled one way, while the Commissioner’s other hand is holding the hand of the K-12 establishment and being pulled the other way.  In the process, she is stretched like an elastic superhero and somehow survives the experience.

I think of the Commissioner who presided with patience and apparent empathy over the Governor Scott-mandated Cirque du Common Core hearings around the state during which emotional fears seemed to overwhelm thoughtful reasoning among most attendees.

But in listening to the Commissioner’s evasive and confusing comments during Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting about this year’s results on the Science FCAT and Biology end-of-course exams, I couldn’t escape the conclusion that she wishes science would just go away.

The Commissioner was responding to concerns expressed by Board Vice Chair John Padget during the “Member Comments” segment of the meeting about the science exam results, which are certainly not improving and in fact declined this year over last year (see the School Zone report on Padget’s comments here).  In her comments, the Commissioner danced around Padget’s concerns skillfully, first detouring into an upbeat-sounding discussion of the few middle school students who take the high school Biology 1 course (and its end-of-course exam).  The 8th graders who take the Biology 1 exam are prohibited from taking the 8th grade Science FCAT, and so there is no accountability for their meeting the state’s middle grades benchmarks in the physical and Earth/space sciences (which they therefore probably don’t learn very well).  So no – taking Biology 1 in 8th grade is actually NOT a good thing.

Then the Commissioner talked about making sure that district officials and science teachers know about the instructional resources that already exist, such as they are.

But what Commissioner Stewart didn’t say was this:  “Florida’s poor achievement in science is a serious concern for us, and we will do whatever it takes to improve student learning in this subject.”  That’s what she will say about reading if the FSA results turn out to be disappointing when they are released later this year.

To be sure, there are Florida school districts where the leadership has decided to make science a priority, and there are science teachers in some of the state’s schools doing world-class work with their students.  But as long as the State of Florida refuses to make science a high priority, students in many of the state’s schools will be deprived of opportunities to pursue careers in our society’s most lucrative professions.

That’s what is at stake when Commissioner Stewart just wishes science would go away.

(A hat tip to Brandon Haught at the Florida Citizens for Science blog for linking to the recording of the SBOE meeting and pinpointing the time at which the Commissioner made her science remarks)

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Florida Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program survives Governor Scott’s veto pen

The Florida Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program, which will pay $10,000 annual bonuses to “highly effective” teachers who earned high SAT/ACT scores when they were in high school, survived Governor Scott’s veto pen this morning and was signed into law.

The program is budgeted for $44 million in 2015-16.

I’ve said plenty about this program, so I’ll stop now.

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How FSU got hammered in the SUS performance funding model: Not enough degrees in STEM and other “Areas of Strategic Emphasis”

As reported last week in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Florida State had a particularly rough go in the state’s performance funding model.  A look at the performance funding worksheet from the Board of Governors makes it clear in which metrics the university was pummeled the worst:  “Average Cost per Undergraduate Degree to the Institution”, on which FSU earned 2 points out of a possible 5; “Bachelors’ Degrees Awarded in Areas of Strategic Emphasis (Including STEM)”, where FSU earned 2 points; “Graduate Degrees Awarded in Areas of Strategic Emphasis (Including STEM)”, in which FSU earned 1 point; and “Faculty Awards”, where FSU earned 2 points.  Only FSU and UF are evaluated on the basis of faculty awards, and UF earned 3 points in this category.

Given the amount of faculty effort it takes to produce a bachelor’s degree in engineering or physics, it’s not at all clear to me that we would even want to do well in the “Average Cost per Undergraduate Degree to the Institution” metric.  And faculty awards is a tough business.  The way to quickly boost faculty awards is to recruit senior people away from other institutions with enormous salaries and multimillion dollar startup packages, and it’s not at all clear that this is usually the best course for an institution to take.  In terms of what’s best for students, recruiting strong junior faculty members makes much more sense in most cases.

Which leaves the issue of degrees in areas of strategic emphasis.  No matter how much my colleagues would like to maintain the present balance of degrees and power on campus, we simply must move the needle to produce more degrees in STEM and other areas of strategic emphasis at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

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