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  • Florida’s Success Improving Education

    As the single mother of a child who received a scholarship for disadvantaged children to attend a private school, I’ve seen how school choice can influence and change the life of a child. Not only have I seen it in my own son’s life, I’ve seen it in the lives of countless other children. However, those of us who support school choice see it as part of a broader school reform effort.

    And now growing evidence shows that school reforms that incorporate school choice can deliver real progress. One place where this is becoming increasingly clear is Florida, a state that is a national leader in offering families school choice options. In Florida, a decade of aggressive education reforms has led to remarkable progress in improving students’ academic achievement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Since 1998, Florida students have improved by 32 percent in the percentage of 4th grade students scoring “basic” on the reading exam as well as a 54 percent increase in those scoring “proficient.”

    What’s most inspiring about this story is that the greatest academic gains have been made by Florida’s African American and Hispanic students. For example, Florida’s Hispanic students now outscore the statewide average of all students in 15 states on the 2007 fourth-grade reading exam. Florida’s African American students also beat the statewide average of all students in Louisiana and Mississippi, and they are close to passing other states.

    How did Florida achieve this remarkable success? A new Heritage study answers this question. The authors argue that this progress was caused by a broad recipe of reforms that included holding schools and students accountable for results, strengthening classroom instruction strategies, and enacting new policies to attract and reward effective school teachers. A vital component of this overall reform strategy was expanding school choice options. Thanks to a strong charter school law and private school scholarship programs, many families in Florida have the power to choose the best school for their children.

    As the mother of a child whose life was transformed by the opportunity to attend a school that best met his needs, I know that school choice – coupled with other reforms to improve public education – can help all students achieve their academic potential. Leaders across the country should learn from Florida’s success.

    Virginia Walden Ford is a Visiting Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to Florida’s Success Improving Education

    1. Marc Whitman, VT says:

      Hooray for creativity in delivering edcation to our young people!

      It seems to me that Vermont's very progressive (read: liberal, or socialized) school funding laws could make the state ripe for introducing choice into the education business. Any ideas?

    2. Brenda Cash, Shiner says:

      I have read the Education Guide and some of these articles regarding the problems with today's education. I am not any sort of an education expert, but I feel there are too many generalities regarding a solution and not enough specifics offered. The average concerned citizen says, "what can We do"? The standard answer is "get involved". People need a plan or guide. Being a nurse, I have been trained to problem solve. The root problem must be identified, a goal set, interventions planned and implemented to meet that goal, and evaluation of how well the goal is being met. My example follows.

      PROBLEM: Americans who do not have the knowledge of our country's history and constitution will have no idea how to judge today's polices and laws.(Phyllis Schafly) In other words, for years we have allowed liberals to infiltrate our schools. They have lowered standards, and gradually rewrote and omitted the history, truth, and foundations that have made this country strong and a vanguard against government intrusions.

      INTERVENTIONS: These are only a few of the many which should be done on a personal,local,and state level. These are not overnight fixes, but then, liberals did not change our children's thinking over night.

      1. Every conservative has the responsibility to self educate their children, grandchildren, and any neighborhood kid about the ideals and foundation on which this great country was built, and what it requires to keep it strong. Each child should carry this in their hearts, and these children must be encouraged to become teachers,journalists, and elected officials.

      2. Attend school board meetings to understand the influence government has on our educational system. If conservative ideals are not being maintained, run for a school board position and help make those positive changes.

      3. Emphasize,plan,and participate in patriotic holidays — Veterans Day, etc. These holidays are the perfect opportunity to educate out youth (and adults) about what and who these holidays represent.

      4.Get vocal about supporting school vouchers.

      5. Read and then have a say about the text books.

      6. AND SO ON .. This is where the general public would add to the list of interventions and steps to be taken.

      And there must be ongoing evaluations of meeting the goal of a changed education with measurable results.

      EVALUATION: Our young will exhibit the knowledge and love of this country by recognizing and defending the capitalist principles and freedoms of our Constitution.

      1. There will be parental choice of schools.

      2. Under Achieving schools will be closed.

      3. Academic standards will be high.

      4. Federal government will not have control of our schools.

      5. And So On…….

      When will we have a conservative leader who will say," O.K. folks, here is the plan"? I realize this may be too simplistic for experts, but sometimes to get things done..simple is the best, and people are waiting for a leader and a plan. So, I urge a step beyond "get involved".

    3. Richard, Texas says:

      I am an educator in a public school in Texas. I am also a conservative. It irritates me to no end to when folks lump all educators into the liberal pile. The real problem with education is not that it is public. My experience has shown me that the problem lies in the idea that the teacher has to be mother, father, preacher, counselor, moral instructor, life instructor, etc. Dad and Mom just send their children to school and that's it. The only time that they get concerned is when they get a notice from the school about their child. They should do their job as parents and monitor the school work of their children. That is a start on "getting involved." I could go on and on.

    4. Spiritof76, New Hamp says:

      I agree to certain extent with the posting of Richard of Texas.

      The schools have become everything else except a place where you send your children to learn academic subjects. It is largely the fault of the parents. Another thing- schools have become places of political correctness through the lawyers and political hacks.

      When I went to school, teachers were rulers. You obeyed what they required of you in school. I could not take refuge at home as I would get into more serious trouble with my parents if they were notified by my teacher that I was unruly or inattentive.

      School voucher is the only way the schools can again become a place of learning and not a place for hangout while the parents worked.

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