The PreK-12 Policy Committee of the Florida Senate has issued a report on the idea of raising high school graduation requirements in science. Their conclusion: Don’t do anything for now – it’s too hard. Wait for all the pieces to be in place. While each of the individual recommendations makes sense, the idea that all of them must be implemented before moving ahead is a recipe for paralysis. And the report’s faith in the grievously underfunded PROMiSE professional development program is quite troubling.
Other states are setting their bars high and then scrambling to find the resources to make it possible to reach them. In contrast, the Florida Senate committee appears to be arguing that we should totally transform our science teaching corps before raising our expectations. But transforming our teaching corps is an expensive proposition, and unless our expectations are officially raised, investing in a transformed teaching corps is not a high enough priority to be properly funded.
In short, the report begs for the chicken and egg metaphor: We need an egg, so we have to wait for the chicken. But we don’t have any chickens yet because there are no eggs! Oh well – I guess we’ll just have to wait for a chicken to show up.
Without further comment, I present the “Options and/or Recommendations” section of the report:
In order to make the state globally competitive in mathematics and science, the state needs to make the following revisions in its current practices in the education of its students and the development of its teaching profession:
- Pre-K-20 science and mathematics instruction must be revised to make instruction relevant to students. This requires universities, colleges, education preparation institutes, and school districts to emphasize the actual art of instruction in their curricula for the preparation of teachers.
- Reading skills instruction must be incorporated in all content areas beginning at grade 4 and continuing through grade 12, to support student success in the STEM areas.
- Professional development, teacher preparation programs, and the certification of teachers need significant revisions to develop quality teachers and instruction. Professional development must emphasize instruction that is engaging and meaningful to students. Teacher preparation programs should revise their curricula based on the student learning data of their graduates. Finally, certification to teach in the state should require a candidate to demonstrate a more significant understanding of content.
- The state should aggressively recruit STEM educators from postsecondary institutions and the high-tech business sector. The Department of Education and school districts should determine if there are barriers to recruiting such candidates.
- The Department of Education should continue, within budgetary constraints, its efforts to acquire assessments, including rigorous end-of-course assessments, to identify appropriate instruction.
- The Legislature should require a comprehensive review of current STEM-related funding to ensure that funding is based on sound research and a return on the state’s investment, and to eliminate duplication of effort.
In order to address the immediate need for a talent pool of STEM-related education and workforce professionals, the Legislature may wish to consider more rigorous mathematics and science high school graduation requirements, provided that the following prerequisites are in place:
- The education and business communities are certain that appropriately trained educators are available to teach these courses;
- The middle grades coursework is in place to support student success in rigorous mathematics and science at the high school level; and
- The Department of Education is able to provide technical support to districts, schools, and early childhood providers to facilitate comprehensive STEM instruction, based upon research. This assistance must include timely distribution of research findings on STEM instruction, support for STEM-related professional learning opportunities, cost-effective use of existing and future resources, and a return on taxpayer investments.