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March 8, 2012

Florida Education Reform

The Economist:

hese efforts thus represent an attempt to seize from Democrats one of their signature issues, public education. The states with the best schools, such as Massachusetts, still tend to be Democratic, with relatively high taxes and school spending. And some Democratic places, such as the District of Columbia and New York, have made aggressive attempts at reform. But voters increasingly see Democrats as beholden to teachers' unions and the status quo, says Eric Hanushek, an education expert at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. The Republican reformers, by contrast, promise reform without higher taxes, in part by confronting the unions.

This is why they look to Mr Bush. What he proved in Florida, claims Jaryn Emhof, his spokesman at the education foundation he now runs, is that "it's not about how much you're spending, but how you're spending, how you're teaching." Although school spending did rise slightly under Mr Bush, Florida still spends very little per pupil compared with other states. With a Republican legislature, Mr Bush instead made Florida the only state to adopt an entire bundle of reforms simultaneously, in the teeth of the teachers' unions.

First Florida started grading its schools from A to F, based on the proficiency and progress of pupils in annual reading, writing, maths and science tests. The state gives extra money to schools that get an A or improve their grade, and children at schools that get two F grades in four years are allowed to transfer to better schools. Second, Florida stopped letting third-grade pupils who could barely read go on to fourth grade (a practice, common all over America, called "social promotion").

Excellence in Education explains Florida's reading reforms and compares Florida's NAEP progress with Wisconsin's at the July 29th (2012) Read to Lead task force meeting.

Florida, along with Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota and North Carolina took the TIMSS global exam in 2011. Wisconsin, did not.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at March 8, 2012 5:28 AM
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