Right now, Florida’s most pressing educational issue is not school choice or teacher certification. It is not the loony Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program, nor foreign language education nor learning to program computers. It is not even (and many parents will find this hard to believe) changes to high school sports.
Florida’s most urgent educational issue right now is the collapse of the state’s middle school math program.
In 2013, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reported that 31% of Florida’s 8th graders were proficient or advanced in math.
By 2015, that number had dropped to 26%.
Florida isn’t the only state heading in the wrong direction in middle school math, according to NAEP. The proficiency rate for the entire nation dropped from 35% to 33% from 2013 to 2015. Yet Florida – which was already below the national rate in 2013 – had the nation’s biggest drop from 2013 to 2015.
Given the dependence of our 21st century economy on science, engineering and technology, such a performance indicates that our students are heading for rocky futures.
Yet while school choice, Best and Brightest, the duel between foreign language education and computer programming education and high school sports reform (seriously) dominated the legislative headlines, there was not a peep on the subject of the state’s instructional shortcomings in math. Not from legislators. Not from the media.
The middle school math problem will not be solved by a fancy web site, nor by lip service (although we’re not even getting that). Solving the state’s middle school math meltdown will require attracting more great math teachers to our state’s middle schools – particularly those with many students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Nothing the Florida Legislature did this session will help in that regard.