Florida is at the top in reading and farther down in math. So what should Florida do?

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.

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