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Jeb Bush's Education Program Reaps Results

By Dave Eberhart   |   Tuesday, 04 Aug 2009 03:45 PM

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s “Florida’s A+ Plan for Education” is earning scholarship grades, notes an opinion piece in the Miami Herald.

According to the latest statistics, just 7 percent of Florida schools have received a D or F grade from the state — compared to 28 percent in 1999. Furthermore, according to the Herald report, the number of A and B schools has tripled during that same period.

In yet another flag of academic improvement, African-American and Hispanic students have lessened the achievement gap — although white students still lead.

The state’s decade-long march to the achievements will not go unrewarded.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has kicked off the administration’s ``Race to the Top” program, which is slated to release $4.35 billion in grants to states like Florida that deliver the goods in education reform. The program hailed by both Duncan and President Barack Obama seeks to kindle competition between American students and their foreign counterparts — with an emphasis in math and science, areas where the United States has historically fallen behind.

The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), a key feature of the Bush education initiative, has, according to the Herald piece, narrowed the gap between rich and poor, white and black, suburban, and urban in the Sunshine State.

“As the bar keeps rising on the FCAT, students and educators have met the challenge,” wrote the authors of the editorial, who added that the pressure of ranking schools by how well their lower-tier of students performed forced educators to focus on children with the biggest academic shortfalls.

“That has helped elevate Florida students' performance not only on the FCAT but on other important standardized measures, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress,” noted the authors.

Leading the Way

Florida remains the only state in the union that grades each school based on students' performance on the FCAT. Any school that consistently ranks at the bottom of the scoring may face a state takeover.

“Lots of people thought grading schools would hurt public education,” Bush told The Miami Herald in an e-mail message earlier this summer. “Instead, students, parents, teachers, and principals rose to the challenge and exceeded expectations.”

On a smaller scale, some individual school districts, including New York City, have modeled parts of their school grading systems after Florida.

Earlier this summer, the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education highlighted Florida as one of three states to shrink the test-score gap between white and black fourth-graders in reading over the past 15 years.

"I care deeply about improving the quality of education. We need all schools — here and in the 49 other states — to get better for our country's future. The only way to improve student performance is through continual and perpetual reform of education,” Bush said in mid-June.

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