Florida’s shortage of new high school math teachers: Update 10/30/17

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Once each week, I will update progress (or lack thereof) in addressing Florida’s decline in the number of new teachers certified to teach all high school math courses.  That certification is called “Math 6-12”.

As you can see above, the number of first-time examinees passing the certification exam has declined sharply since 2013.

Today’s update will be a little longer than future ones because I will outline the present situation.

What Republican legislators are doing:  Florida’s Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program was enacted by the 2015 Legislature in part as a recruiting tool.  So far, the program has not reversed the decline in the supply of new Math 6-12 teachers, although it could be argued that it’s still too early to know whether it will have an effect.  The program uses SAT/ACT scores earned by the teacher herself (or himself) for eligibility, and that has sparked considerable controversy.  While the 2015 and 2016 Legislatures authorized the program through budget language, the 2017 Legislature inserted the program into statute via HB 7069, its omnibus education bill.

What Democratic legislators are proposing:  Democratic Senator Kevin Rader has filed SB 586 that would set a statewide minimum salary for all instructional personnel of $50,000.  That would do a great deal to narrow the salary gap between what new bachelor’s degree grads in math can make as a teacher or in the private sector.  However, since it treats all teachers equally – regardless of subject area – it is a non-starter for the Republican-controlled legislature.

What the State Board of Education is proposing:  The SBOE is pushing a legislative initiative to train and recruit more teachers in computer coding education.  They are ignoring the decline in the supply of new high school math teachers.  The SBOE also makes the common error of using the term “computer science” to label their initiative.  What they are doing has nothing to do with computer science – which requires an undergraduate to have a strong background in math and science – and instead seems intended to produce a large number of technician-level computer programmers (which is not a bad thing).

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