Florida's Education Reforms are Gaining National Acclaim
The Florida Chamber of Commerce believes that a talented workforce is Florida's best economic development tool toward ensuring businesses can successfully compete in the global marketplace. To secure Florida's future, the Florida Chamber continues building on its long-standing efforts to champion bold education reform policy centered on accountability, measuring successes and failures, rewarding good teachers and providing parents and students with options to achieve education success.
Below is an editorial that outlines the significance of education reform in Florida. The editorial was authored by Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson and was published yesterday in the Florida Times-Union.
As a matter of economic security, education reform should be America’s No. 1 strategy for securing our future.
The United States, once the gold standard of education, is no longer in the top 20 nations on key education outcomes.
Inside Florida, rhetoric over the FCAT, the $26 billion class-size boondoggle and funding formulas has often overshadowed the incredible success and learning gains in Florida’s public education system.
While nothing replaces the importance of a great teacher, major reforms have propelled Florida from a bottom tier to a top 10 state and are serving as reform models for many other states to follow.
In just five years, Florida has gone from 31st out of 50 states to 11th highest in education achievement rankings.
Florida’s gains now serve as a model for other states, including Louisiana, Indiana, Oklahoma, Arizona and Colorado.
In recent weeks, even North Carolina began taking steps to implement Florida- style K-12 reform measures. Students are being equipped for a changing world and a highly competitive workforce.
Why are other states adopting Florida’s education reforms? Because they work!
Here are results from the Nation’s Report Card:
Florida’s fourth- and eighth-grade students with disabilities were ranked first in the nation in combined math and reading gains.
Low-income students ranked third in combined progress in fourth- and eighth- grade reading and math scores.
Florida’s Hispanic students have made great strides in closing the achievement gap in fourth-grade reading and fourth- and eighth-grade math, improving a grade level each year since 2003 (combined average).
African-American students have closed the achievement gap with white students faster than the national average every year since 2003.
Florida works to provide families the power to choose, open up access to effective teachers, offer scholarships for students with disabilities, tax credit scholarships and implement charter school policies.
Virtual schools are also a part of that customized approach, helping students become online literate in preparation for a more competitive workforce.
Despite these changes and Florida’s proven successes, we cannot stop and pat ourselves on the back.
And we should not be swayed by media spin or union rhetoric that often accompanies Florida’s comprehensive education reform efforts.
Bold education reforms must continue despite the growing pains that often occur when raising standards.
Florida and 45 other states have developed a new, national “Common Core” set of academic standards for English, language arts and math that are benchmarked to international standards and aligned with college entrance and employee expectations.
While Common Core is a few years away, our students are positioned for the change because of the reforms.
We must keep fighting to lead the U.S. in education reform.
Florida shouldn’t settle for being 11th out of 50 states, and the United States shouldn’t settle for ranking 25th in math.
It’s time for all sides to put down the rhetoric and agree that Florida and the United States should return to the gold standard of education for the world.
If we’re going to win the talent war, we must understand that reform is never final and no issue is more important to our future than focusing on closing America’s talent gap.
Mark Wilson is president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.