Schmidt: Do middle school math teachers get enough preparation?

November 22, 2011

A recent opinion piece from the Orlando Sentinel addressed one of Florida education’s most troubling statistics: that only 28 percent of Floridian eighth-graders are considered “proficient” in mathematics. The solution? Attract top math teachers to middle schools, said guest columnist Paul Cottle.

Cottle referenced the research of MSU professor William Schmidt, which said that U.S. math instruction is weak because the teachers themselves often have weak math skills.

“Current teacher-preparation programs for middle-school math instructors in the United States do not produce teachers with an internationally competitive level of mathematics knowledge,” Schmidt stated in a press release.

Cottle suggested that the low salaries of middle school math teachers may be a factor.

“Starting teachers’ salaries in Florida are near $35,000. In contrast, the average starting salary offer in a non-teaching job for a recent bachelor’s-degree graduate in mathematics is much higher — close to $50,000 during the 2008-2009 academic year,” Cottle wrote. “Paying math teachers more — maybe $10,000 per year more — might attract a larger number of strong math students into teaching.”

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