Bill to tighten up performance funding criteria for Florida’s public universities sailing through Senate committees

If you work at a public university in Florida like me, you might want to keep an eye on SB 524, which would tighten up the State University System performance funding criteria that almost left FSU out in the cold this year.  The bill already received a favorable report from the Senate Higher Education Committee on a bipartisan 9-0 vote, and it has a date with the Education Subcommittee of the Florida Appropriations Committee next week.  Bill author Don Gaetz is the chair of that subcommittee.

One of the metrics that determines how much performance funding a university receives (if any at all) is the average first-year earnings of bachelor’s degree graduates who find jobs in Florida.  FSU’s number for graduates from the 2012-13 academic year was a startling $31,600 – and it was startling because it was so low.

How low is $31,600?  Even if every bachelor’s degree graduate had taken a K-12 teaching job the average would have been about $5,000 higher.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, if FSU’s salary number had been only $400 lower, the university would have lost out on performance funding altogether.

SB 524 seems to zero in on FSU’s salary number with this language:  “The performance metrics must include…wage thresholds that reflect the added value of a baccalaureate degree.”  The wage threshold would be set by the Board of Governors, but it is clear that the intent is to raise starting salaries for graduates – presumably by shifting the mix of majors on each campus so that there are more students in degree programs that lead to higher-paying jobs.

That would be a challenge for FSU, an institution that has a tradition of strong programs in the arts and humanities but which has an image problem among Florida’s parents, teachers and students when it comes to science and engineering – despite having (for example) the strongest physics and Earth science departments in the state.

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Florida vs. the nation: Which NAEP result galvanized the Florida Legislature into action?

Hint:  It’s probably not the one a reader would have picked.






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Florida House subcommittee takes on the stagnation in elementary school reading achievement. But what about the meltdown in middle school math?

The K-12 Subcommittee of the Florida House of Representatives is laser-focusing on elementary school reading, a subject in which the state is among the best in the world despite the recent stagnation in test scores. (See the Tampa Bay Times article on the subcommittee’s efforts here)

However, the subcommittee has not yet paid any attention to middle school math, in which Florida is below average and plummeting still lower according to the recently released 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Why?  It’s hard to say, but it might be worth trying out this hypothesis:  Every teacher can read.  So the subcommittee’s agenda includes more professional development for teachers and a greater degree of communication with parents.  And the subcommittee’s strategies might help.

In contrast, many middle school math teachers have weak math skills themselves, according to a landmark 2011 study by researchers at Michigan State University.  So the task of improving middle school math achievement in Florida wouldn’t just involve training the existing middle school math teaching corps in improved pedagogical techniques.  Instead, it would require the recruiting of a whole new generation of strong math students into teaching careers.  And that would be expensive.  Florida’s present teacher recruitment strategy, which was once described to me as “we do accountability now” by an education staffer, would not be sufficient to attract the large numbers of strong math teachers needed to fix the state’s middle school math problem.  Instead, the state would have to come to terms with the fact that the people they need in middle school math classrooms are being offered $50,000 salaries upon receipt of their bachelors’ degrees, and that the gap between that salary level and the sub-$40,000 salaries K-12 teachers are getting to start is a significant hindrance to recruiting.

And it isn’t just our conservative state leadership that would balk at paying starting middle school math teachers $50,000 per year.  Teachers’ unions would complain that math teachers shouldn’t be paid more than, say, English teachers because it would (in the words of yet another education official) “make the English teachers feel bad.”

So there are considerable obstacles to stopping Florida’s bleeding in middle school math.  We can only hope that our leaders can find the fortitude to do what is necessary.

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2015 AP results say Florida is not a math and science state

For those of you who weren’t convinced by Florida’s catastrophic 2015 NAEP 8th grade math results, perhaps the 2015 AP exam results will convince you that Florida is not a math and science education state.  The “Just Read!” state is a national leader in the percentages of students who pass AP exams in social sciences, English, foreign languages and art.  But in math and science, Florida is merely average.

The chart below shows the number of AP exam passers per 1000 high school students for the five categories of exams.  Massachusetts is included in the comparison because they are the nation’s gold standard for K-12 education – and the state with which Florida should aspire to compete.


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Few black students among those who passed AP Chemistry, Computer Science and Physics exams in Florida this year

Computer Science, Chemistry and Physics were among the AP exams with the lowest percentages of black students among exam passers (scores 3, 4 and 5 on the 5-point AP scale) in Florida this year.

French, Art and Psychology had the highest percentages of black students among exam passers.

Overall, 5.75% of the passing scores on AP exams in Florida were earned by black students.


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Florida steers black students toward bachelors’ degrees in social services and criminal justice and away from degrees in engineering, physical science, math, foreign language and business

Data are taken from the Florida Board of Governors Interactive University Database.  The degrees are plotted by CIP major group.

Overall, black students earned 12.1% of all SUS bachelors’ degrees in 2013-14.


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2015 math and science AP results from Florida: Computer Science and Biology continue strong growth; Calculus, Statistics, Chemistry and Environmental Science lag

The strong growth in the numbers of Florida students taking and passing the Advanced Placement exams in Computer Science and Biology continued in 2015, while the numbers of students taking and passing other AP math and science exams leveled off or declined.

The data shown below were taken from the annual Florida summaries available at the AP Participation and Performance page.

The Physics 1 and 2 exams are not included here because they were given in 2015 for the first time.










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