(Another) memo to the Florida State Board of Education: On teaching, “What are Florida’s next steps?”

Tomorrow’s SBOE workshop on quality teaching and teacher preparation will conclude with a Board discussion titled “What are Florida’s next steps?”

There is general agreement that it is critical to get more great teachers into high needs schools.  And the Board itself designates “Critical Teacher Shortage Areas” every year.  As always, this year’s list includes special education, math and science teachers.

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed the issue of getting strong teachers into high-needs schools on Monday during a panel discussion at George Washington University, saying “Ninety-nine percent of incentives are for talented folks to move to more affluent neighborhoods. We need to make it a badge of honor — a privilege — to work with kids who need the most help,” according to the Washington Post.  GWU Education Dean Michael Feuer was more direct, saying more money was needed.

And then there’s this:  payscale.com says that the starting median pay for new bachelor’s degree grads in physics is $53,100.  Starting salaries for new college grads in math and computer science are similar.  Some say that money isn’t the issue – that strong students should be drawn into teaching by other intangible rewards and shouldn’t be discouraged by the starting salaries of less than $40,000.  But for a young graduate wanting to start a family, there is no substitute for money.

So what should Florida’s next steps be for recruiting strong students into the teaching profession?  Substantial financial incentives targeting high-needs schools and critical teacher shortage areas.  It’s that simple.  The 20 minutes set aside in the agenda for the Board’s discussion isn’t needed – they can finish in 60 seconds.

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