Thursday, January 15, 2009

Florida's Education Reform Methods Paying Off

Some states fare better than others in education and I have been closely following the ones that succeed. Florida has been on my radar because of what I believe are strong reform methods. I know they allow for charter schools and grant special needs children school choice. Florida has been one of my strong examples that reform do help and others states should look for guidance. Unfortunately, not everyone is going to listen to me.
These are some crucial excerpts from the Washington Times:

But if President-elect Barack Obama wants to improve our education system, he should look at what Jeb Bush did in Florida, ...
Three years before NCLB was enacted, then-Gov. Jeb Bush decided to set clear accountability standards, and to back them up with school choice for students and meaningful rewards for good teachers.

The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) is the gold standard of national education achievement tests. It is not a state-designed test. Over the past decade, NAEP reading scores for Florida fourth graders have soared nine percentage points - more than twice the national gain. Florida's eighth-grade reading gains were also almost double the national average. Math scores also registered solid gains, exceeding the national average.

Most impressive has been the success of minorities. Scores among Florida's low-income black and Hispanic students have risen much faster than the national average. Hispanic fourth-graders in the Sunshine State now boast reading scores higher than the all-student average in 15 states, including California.

How did Jeb Bush get results so much better than his brother's national program? Four simple but effective ideas.

First, the state didn't play games with test standards. Florida's test methodology measures what students actually knows, not just how well they do compared with other Florida students. And each public school in the state gets its own A-F report card annually. Successful schools get bonuses. Failing schools get tough remedial action.

Second, Florida ended "everyone-passes" social promotion at the third grade. Failing students get early remedial help, not a free pass.

Third, Florida got serious about school choice, promoting a range of public and private options. For instance, 20,000 students with disabilities now receive private-school scholarships. And more than 100,000 children attend charter schools.

And, it turns out, school choice delivers an added bonus. The Urban Institute, a leading national think tank in Washington, found that competition spurred a general improvement in student achievement in Florida's "F" schools. When faced with accountability pressure and choice, these schools tried new and better ways to raise standards.

Fourth, Jeb Bush acted to reward good teachers, while circumventing union-devised red tape that often keeps excellent educators out of the classroom. The state awards large bonuses to teachers with demonstrated success. And Florida instituted alternative paths to teacher certification in order to attract top-flight educators who would be stymied by the normal bureaucratic rules. Today, about half of all new Florida teachers use the alternative certification route.

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