Let’s be perfectly clear about this: I have zero input into Florida’s legislative process. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
But if I did…here’s what I would push as my 2014 legislative wish list:
A crash program to improve middle school math instruction. Set aside $5 million in recurring funding to recruit the nation’s best available math teachers to work in Florida’s middle schools using differential pay of $10,000 per teacher. Why? Because NAEP and PISA have demonstrated that Florida’s middle school math program falls far short of what the state needs to prepare all of its students for college and careers that can provide middle class incomes. And how important is that? Matthew Ladner talks about that at redefinedonline.org, except that he focuses on reading and not math. Time to get serious about math, Matthew!
A fix for Florida’s high school graduation requirements. The new high school graduation options installed by the 2013 Legislature and Governor Scott provide three options – college-ready (called the “Scholar” track), career-ready (the “Merit” track, which requires achieving at least one industry certification) and none-of-the-above (the new standard diploma requirements). The absolutely necessary fix is the elimination of the present standard diploma track, the one that does not prepare a student for college or career. But if I were King, I’d do one more thing – add a diploma track that prepares a student to major in everything (English, Physics, anything at all) at the state’s public universities so that these students have the option of choosing any major when they arrive at college. The present “Scholar” track falls far short of this. And to come up with the right requirements for this track, I’d convene a committee of SUS professors from a variety of fields that would set the requirements. And then…I’d require completion of this new track to earn the highest level Bright Futures scholarship, thereby eliminating the reliance on SAT scores and providing a strong incentive for Florida’s best and brightest to reach high.