The answer to this question is crystal clear: a full court press on K-8 math.
What would such a full court press look like? It would have two components – improving the performance of the state’s present K-8 math teaching force, and recruiting the very best new math teachers for the K-8 schools.
Let’s take on the first component first. The standard model for teacher professional development is the two-week summer workshop. We know unequivocally that this model does not work. So identify the very best extended (six-week) summer professional development program already available (and don’t invent one here) and get every K-8 teacher of math in Florida into the program. Pay the teachers at their normal salary rate for the six week workshop.
Second, go out and recruit the very best K-8 math teachers that can be found. Pay them $10,000 a year above the usual salary rate (which is authorized under Florida law). Place a highly qualified math coach in every elementary school. Don’t complain that the teacher unions will never allow it, because I have at least one example of a high-ranking union official who thinks differential pay is a good and important idea.
Florida poured $100 million per year into its K-12 reading program for years, and the payoff was obvious and dramatic. It’s time to do the same in math.
After all, it’s 2013. Our kids are facing a dauntingly competitive globalized economy that demands mathematical and technological literacy. Math is the new reading. Let’s get on with it.