Thursday, April 29, 2010

Education: Florida versus Nevada

10 years ago, Florida and Nevada were tied near the bottom of the States Ratings on Education. Since then, Florida has improved drastically while Nevada has remained at the bottom. Why?

Here is the conclusion of a report by Patrick Gibbons of the NPRI.
While it is difficult to ascertain which reforms produce the absolutely best results, it is clear that simply increasing funds for public education will not bring about the successes Florida achieved. We now also know that traditional excuses for public school failure — blaming English language learners, students with disabilities, minority students or poverty — are merely that: invalid excuses.

Since 1999, comprehensive educational reforms enacted by Florida have included parental choice options, incentive-based reforms and instructional reforms. The result has been to drastically increase student achievement in math and reading. Importantly, the reforms allowed minority students to close the achievement gap. Low-income students saw increases in student achievement as well.

Both students and teachers were held accountable for learning achievement. Students who failed were held back or given remedial education. High-quality teachers were rewarded for their efforts. Schools, too, were held accountable by empowering parents with more control over their child’s education while schools were ranked “A” through “F” based on their demonstrated ability to educate students.

No other state with the same challenges in poverty, demographics and English language learners has seen Florida’s gains in student achievement. The improvement in Florida’s education, notwithstanding the challenges, finally lays to rest many of the excuses educators and policymakers have offered over the years as to why schools “cannot” improve student achievement.

Since there is little difference between Florida and Nevada in terms of poverty rates, language barriers, demographics or funding, we have little doubt that comprehensive reforms of the nature implemented by Florida could improve math and reading achievement levels in the Silver State, or any other state, as well.

Florida’s successes, especially with low-income and minority children, should inspire
policymakers throughout the country to replicate the state’s reforms. They demonstrate what can be achieved against all the odds and how to do it. They also prove that failure is no longer an option.

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