Florida-style school reform

Florida’s education reforms are working, writes Jeb Bush, the former governor, in the Wall Street Journal.

In 1998, nearly half of Florida’s fourth-graders were functionally illiterate. Today, 72% of them can read. Florida’s Hispanic fourth-graders are reading as well or better than the average student in 31 other states and the District of Columbia. That is what I call a real game-change.

Florida grades schools on a scale of A to F, based solely on standardized test scores, Bush writes.

When we started, many complained that “labeling” a school with an F would demoralize students and do more harm than good. Instead, it energized parents and the community to demand change from the adults running the system. School leadership responded with innovation and a sense of urgency. The number of F schools has since plummeted while the number of A and B schools has quadrupled.

Florida also ended “social” promotion for third-grade students who couldn’t read.

Holding back illiterate students seemed to generate a far greater outcry than did the disturbing reality that more than 25% of students couldn’t read by the time they entered fourth grade. But today? According to Florida state reading tests, illiteracy in the third grade is down to 16%.

Florida schools that earn an A or improve by a letter grade get a cash bonus.

Parents who aren’t satisfied with a failing school can choose another district-run public school, a charter school, a virtual school or a tax-credit scholarship to a private school. Vouchers provide choices for pre-K students and students with disabilities.

According to the National Assessment of Education Progress, Florida’s Hispanic and black students are showing remarkable progress.

Jeb Bush’s influence on education policy is spreading, writes Ed Week. The former governor has an education foundation.

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  1. I’m sure some folks will post here telling us how these results are suspect, but this is real progress. I say three-cheers of Jeb.