"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Reforms No Silver Bullet For Education

Reuters reporter Stephanie Simon reviewed Jeb Bush's education reform efforts in Florida and found no silver bullet among them. These reforms; charter schools, literacy requirements for 3rd graders, intense focus on reading, cyber classes, and vouchers, were instituted during his tenure as governor, and did initially show improvements in student scores and graduation rates. But, as they say, time will tell, and time has told the public that these gains were generally short lived.
"After the dramatic jump of the Bush years, Florida test scores edged up in 2009 and then dropped, with low-income students falling further behind. State data shows huge numbers of high school graduates still needing remedial help in math and reading."
It must not be forgotten that all of the things they tried in Florida came with a price tag. While property values were high and the state's economy was doing well, it was easy to push things like reading coaches and teacher bonuses for Advanced Placement scores through the legislature. For other states looking to adopt those measures now, the extreme cost is prohibitive.
"States adopting the policies now, in a time of austerity, tend to leave out the costly support systems. That has stirred protests from school superintendents, school board members, teachers unions and parents who see the policies as punitive, humiliating and too narrowly focused on a single test as a measure of success."
The long term value of their efforts is also falling into question as students who were held back in 3rd grade because they could not pass the reading proficiency requirement, who received a lot of extra attention to help them do so the following year, showed no advantage over other students by the time they got to high school. In addition, according to an annual report required by the state, those students who received vouchers and used them to go to private schools did no better at reading or math than their peers in public schools.

Even with all this intense focus on improving student performance in Florida, Missouri students still receive higher ACT scores than Florida students which is significant since our states fairly closely match in the percentage of students who take the test.

Bush's foundation For Excellence in Education is in high gear drafting legislation, editing bills line by line and sending in experts to testify in various states like Maine, New Mexico and Florida. Reuters points out that "Bush foundation donors include family philanthropies, such as those established by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Corporate donors include Connections Education, a division of global publishing giant Pearson; Amplify, the education division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp; and K12, a publicly traded company that runs online schools."

His critics say these corporate associations diminish any bragging rights he might have to tout Florida's improvements. Bush says that any individual failings in programs by these companies should be noted and those programs dropped. Goody. But we have decades of teaching experience in this country to tell us what works and what doesn't. We shouldn't have to wait for the free market to catch up on this learning curve, meanwhile wasting money and minds.

Anyone out there looking for or touting a silver bullet for the things that ail our public schools is going to be disappointed. The Bush Foundation has not found it, no matter what they say. The best that can be done is for control of education to be returned to the most local level possible so each school can work out its own formula for success.


  1. Recent data indicates that Florida's graduation rate is in the "cellar." One additional piece of data that indicates Jeb-style reforms have failed Florida's students. There is more than enough data that contradicts the claims of successful - other states should be highly skeptical before implementing any of these ideas. If they are solid, they will stand to scrutiny.

  2. This post is rather interesting and heartbreaking as well. I've been following this on the news and I keep hoping for the best. I hope it'll all end soon.

  3. Color me skeptical. Very skeptical.

    This "education reform" banner that Jeb Bush is carrying appears to be his attempt to mend and rectify his badly tarnished name and reputation.

    How many people, nationwide, are willing to trust Bush? He thinks that by parading around, pushing a dubious story about his "success" as Florida's governor's, and making specious claims about "education", he can dupe voters.

    It's not very credible for Bush, like his brother and father before him to be so "concerned" about our public schools. Bushes don't attend public schools. Ever. They go to fancy, elite prep schools. And, in words that every good preppy will understand, "It won't wash, Jeb. It just won't wash."


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