Reducing the Achievement Gap for minorities: it can be done and Florida did it using Common Sense.
All it took was some good old common sense by Governor Jeb Bush to bring the reading scores of minority students up in just a few years. And neither did it take any fancy programs like “Midnight Basketball”. Learning is what children so best and naturally if we adults and the governing bodies would get out of the way and let it happen by setting up the right environment and adding a tad of expectation of success. BB
How did Florida do it? Florida’s success has resulted from the commonsense reforms that were implemented during Jeb Bush’s tenure as governor.
One of the key reforms involved increasing parental control in education. Florida families enjoy more educational options than those in any other state. Florida lawmakers have created one of the nation’s strongest charter-school laws, a voucher program for special-needs students, and the nation’s largest tax-credit program. Florida also leads the nation in online education options.
Florida also implemented rigorous state standards and assessments, testing students annually from third grade through tenth in reading and math. Policymakers have periodically raised their standards, and students have demonstrated that they can reach tougher goals. (expectation of success! BB)
Among the most commonsense reforms was a move to revamp the school-grading system. Prior to the reforms, the state graded schools on a one-to-five scale; for parents, however, it was unclear whether it was better for their child to be in a school that scored a one or a five. The reforms moved schools to an A-to-F scale, which parents intuitively understood. The grades also create significant media buzz when scores are released each spring, adding an additional layer of accountability to the system. (With the allowance of family choices failing schools were at risk of losing students and therefore losing jobs so teachers reformed their thinking and methods of teaching to those that had proven effective. Old ways die hard but threaten the wallet and adults get the message! BB)
Florida also implemented alternative teacher certification and a limited pay-for-performance program and, importantly, ended social promotion. If Johnny cannot read in third grade, he will no longer automatically advance to fourth grade. He will retake third grade with extra help. (Social promotion was the dumbest idea to ever be used in elementary school! If Johnny is the dumbest kid in the class his peers know it and his social standing certainly suffers, so why not keep him back until he can function with his peers? Or, if necessary put the child in a special class where he will get the help he needs? BB)
Florida’s reforms took the basic ideas of No Child Left Behind — academic transparency and accountability to parents — and made them work. Florida’s policymakers created a much stronger dose of this medicine than NCLB did. Florida’s minority students began outscoring statewide averages while, nationwide, minority test scores continue to disappoint. (I as an educator liked No Child Left Behind. Teachers complained that they were “teaching to the tests” which is nothing but an absurd cop out! The test is merely a gauge of what the student should have achieved during that school term so if a teacher was indeed teaching the material then of course they must perforce have been “teaching to the test”. These stupid clichés that get started and make no sense but people keep repeating them and no one bothers to understand really what is being said. BB)
You gotta read this story people! BB