Jobs, jobs, jobs — and school choice

In an acceptance speech devoted to jobs, family, jobs and jobs, Mitt Romney promised to “give our fellow citizens the skills they need for the jobs of today and the careers of tomorrow” by promoting school choice. ” Every parent should have a choice, and every child should have a chance.”

Earlier, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s speech was all about education.

We say that every child in America has an equal opportunity. Tell that to a kid in whose classroom learning isn’t respected.

Tell that to a parent stuck in a school where there is no leadership. Tell that to a young, talented teacher who just got laid off because she didn’t have tenure.

The sad truth is that equality of opportunity doesn’t exist in many of our schools. We give some kids a chance, but not all.

That failure is the great moral and economic issue of our time. And it’s hurting all of America.

Bush also called for school choice.

Go down any supermarket aisle – you’ll find an incredible selection of milk.

You can get whole milk, 2% milk, low-fat milk or skim milk. Organic milk, and milk with extra Vitamin D.

There’s flavored milk– chocolate, strawberry or vanilla – and it doesn’t even taste like milk.

They even make milk for people who can’t drink milk.

Shouldn’t parents have that kind of choice in schools?

Condi Rice, another choice supporter, said the “crisis in K-12 education” is a “threat to the very fabric of who we are” in her convention speech. Otherwise education was barely mentioned.

Here’s Romney’s education web page and the Hechinger Report‘s analysis of what would happen to education under Romney or Obama.

Romney’s pick for Education: Jeb? Rhee?

With the Republican convention underway, it’s time to speculate about Romney’s pick for Education secretary. Over at Politics K-12, Alyson Klein writes that  former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is the number one guess among GOP insiders. Bush wrote the foreword to Romney’s education plan and is the “godfather” of the state superintendents’ group “Chiefs for Change,” which has “had a major impact on state-level education policies.”

Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, of Minnesota also is a top mentionee.

If Romney looks for a state superintendent, Tony Bennett of Indiana, a Chief for Change, and Tom Luna of Idaho are possibilities.

. . . given Romney’s dissing of the teacher’s unions, Luna’s got anti-union street cred to spare—his tires were slashed last year when he tried to raise class size and put merit pay in place.

Other folks are fans of New Jersey’s Chris Cerf, a registered Democrat who, works with a GOP governor (Tuesday’s keynote speaker, Chris Christie).

Former superintendents include Robert Scott (Texas), Paul Pastorek (Louisiana) and Lisa Graham Keegan (of Arizona).

Folks have also suggested that Romney could use the Education Department as the one place to stick a (non-state chief) Democrat, to show his administration can be bipartisan. The name that came up most often? Former New York City chancellor Joel Klein. Other folks suggested Michelle Rhee, a Democrat, who is now running the Students First juggernaut and will be in both Tampa and Charlotte. She’ll be at screenings of the parent-trigger movie “Won’t Back Down.”

The darkest of dark horses? Some of Klein’s Republican sources suggested Romney could ask Arne Duncan to stick around. “Even if it is a joke, it shows Duncan’s still got some cross-aisle credibility,” writes Klein.

The case for (and against) commonality

We need higher and common education standards, argue former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

The Common Core State Standards define what students need to know; they do not define how teachers should teach, or how students should learn. That is up to each state. And they are built on what we have learned from high-performing international competitors as well as the best practices in leading states.

. . . research shows that rigorous mastery of fractions is crucial for later math performance. The Common Core State Standards provide clear grade-by-grade goals for what students should know about fractions, built on the best practices of high-performing countries. In literacy, what most predicts college readiness is the ability to read and understand complex texts. The Common Standards set clear benchmarks for each grade for students reading sufficiently complex texts in English, history/social studies, science and technical subjects.

Bush and Klein make the case against common standards, contends Greg Forster on Jay Greene’s blog. They argue that states, not the federal government, should set education policy. But the feds have pushed states to adopt Common Core Standards by threatening loss of Title I funds; the testing consortia are federally funded.

Furthermore, what’s so great about commonality?

If states should lead the way, if what we want is a decentralized 50-state laboratory of democracy, why not actually do that instead of rounding up all the states to all do it one way?

I wish a few states with strong standards and an established test, such as Massachusetts, had resisted pressure to jump on the Common Core bandwagon. It would be nice to see a few laboratories of democracy.

Digital disruption in education

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush calls for digital learning to disrupt the education monopoly on Reason TV.

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.

Jeb Bush on education and milk

Promoting Florida’s “cocktail” of education reforms at a D.C. education summit, former Gov. Jeb Bush said education should be more like milk, reports the St. Pete Times.

“You can get flavored milk — chocolate, strawberry or vanilla — that doesn’t even taste like milk,” he said. “Most of the time, there is a whole other refrigerator case dedicated to milk alternatives — like soy milk, almond milk and rice milk. They even make milk for people who can’t drink milk.”

“Who would have ever thought you could improve upon milk? Yet, freedom, innovation and competition found a way.”

Indiana and Arizona may emulate Florida policies such as grading schools’ effectiveness, reports the Times.

Update: Jeb Bush praised Obama (and Duncan) as “on the right track.”