Florida Best and Brightest zombies onward while state’s middle school math meltdown goes unaddressed

The Florida Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program takes its first step toward being permanently installed in statute when the House Education Committee meets today starting at noon.  The committee will be considering a bill that includes the Best and Brightest language along with performance-based funding for the state’s public colleges and universities.

The Florida Department of Education announced yesterday that under this year’s edition of the Best and Brightest program about 5,200 teachers who earned high SAT or ACT scores when they were high school students themselves and who earned “highly effective” ratings in 2013-14 would receive bonuses of about $8,400 each.  (Coverage from the Orlando Sentinel and Tampa Bay Times)

None of this addresses the state’s middle school math meltdown, which was revealed by this year’s 8th grade math results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.  While 31% of Florida’s 8th graders tested by NAEP in 2013 had earned the “proficient” distinction (a rate below that year’s national average), this year’s results showed that only 26% of the state’s 8th graders are proficient.  For an educational system generally characterized by glacial change, the drop from 31% to 26% in two years qualifies as an avalanche.

But the Florida Department of Education has not acknowledged that the state has a middle school math problem.  The October 28 FLDOE press release about the NAEP results was titled “Florida Students Shine on National Report Card”, and a memo sent by Commissioner Stewart to State Board of Education members (which was reported on by the Sentinel and Times yesterday) maintained this “What?  Me worry?” approach.

In the Legislature, there has not been a single acknowledgement that the state has a middle school math problem.  There is movement on a package to improve elementary school reading instruction, in which Florida is already one of the nation’s leaders.  But not a peep about math.

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