From time to time I’ve highlighted states that have pursued education reforms especially aggressively. One of these states – and a state that Utah legislators have looked to as a model – is Florida.
Here’s a quick summary from The Washington Post:
Florida schools were given letter grades based on academic progress and achievement — a measure Bush said would provide parents a clearer picture of school performance. The state ended what Bush called “social promotion” of third-graders and provided vouchers so those in repeatedly failing public schools could go to private schools — a program later struck down in court.
One area where Florida has succeeded – whether it’s due to these reforms is, of course, much hard to say – is closing the gap for minority students. From a recent article in The New York Times:
Florida led the five states in improving fourth- and eighth-grade reading scores between 1992 and 2011, although average reading scores among the state’s eighth graders just reached the national average in 2011. Florida’s fourth graders also led the five largest states in gains in math scores, while eighth graders still scored below the national average in 2011.
A new analysis released Thursday of nationwide test results in the five most populous states — California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas — shows that depending on where they live, Hispanic students’ academic performance varies widely.
According to the report, which examines data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often cited as the most reliable standard in academic testing, Hispanic students accounted for more than half of all eighth graders in California in 2011, the highest proportion in the country. But only 14 percent of those students were proficient on eighth-grade reading tests administered by the United States Department of Education.
In Florida, 27 percent of Hispanic students (who represent just over a quarter of its public school students) scored at the proficient level or above. And in Illinois, 23 percent of Hispanic eighth graders were proficient in reading.
In mathematics, Hispanic eighth graders in California similarly underperformed their peers in other states, with just 13 percent hitting the proficiency mark, compared with 22 percent in Florida and 31 percent in Texas, where Hispanics make up more than half the eighth-grade student population.
These results “validate the efforts of Florida teachers and the focus the state has put on academic achievement in a state that is as diverse as this,” Tony Bennett, the newly appointed commissioner of the Florida Department of Education, said in a telephone interview.
And if you’re wondering, yes, Florida’s new education commissioner, Tony Bennett, is the same fellow who lost his election to remain Indiana’s state school superintendent.
For anyone who like to read more about what’s happening in the Sunshine state, here are positive and negative editorials about education reform in Florida: