The answer to almost every question about student achievement includes the phrase “great teachers”.
That’s probably true for the question posed by the two plots below as well.
Here is the question: How is it possible that Florida’s 8th graders are so awful at math if our 4th graders are pretty good?
The answer is probably that we have more great teachers of math at the elementary school level than we do at the middle school level.
Why is that? For one thing, middle school math teachers have to be much better at math themselves than elementary teachers do. And individuals with stronger math skills have many more rewarding career options than those with weaker math skills have.
So are Florida’s voters, parents and policy-makers willing to do what it takes to recruit more strong math teachers to our middle schools so that our middle school students can be as good at math as our elementary students? No. Not yet, anyway.
Instead, we throwing in the towel and reducing the number of middle school students who are being placed in Algebra 1.
In 2016, giving up on secondary level math is equivalent to giving up on the futures of our students. When we have an education commissioner or a legislator who is willing to say so, then there will be a flicker of hope.