Jeanne Allen Takes Politico To Task for Calling Florida Education Reforms “Risky”

Here’s an interesting critique of a recent Politico piece (“Bush’s Risky Education Vision”) related to Governor Jeb Bush’s education reform record from one of the leaders of education reform, Jeane Allen.  On her blog,  Ms. Allen takes Politico to task for everything from getting the history of education reform wrong, as well as the idea that Governor Jeb Bush’s reforms were risky:

As Governor, Jeb Bush took on an unwieldy system and returned power to parents and citizens who had lost faith in public schools and whose own individual preferences and needs had long been ignored.  Students with special needs who had fought for services for their children obtained the right to choose schools to meet those needs. Thousands more families would benefit from scholarships aimed at ensuring they have the same opportunities afforded those who find themselves with more advantages. . . . Today over 615 charter schools serve more than 230,000 Florida students for whom traditional schools were not working.  . . . When Bush entered office, in 1999, more than sixty per cent of minority and low-income fourth graders couldn’t read at a basic level, which doomed them to failure in future grades. Barely half of Florida’s high-school seniors were graduating.

After Bush’s programs were enacted, Florida’s gains in math and reading, according to the federally funded Nation’s Report Card, were larger than they were anywhere else in the country—save Washington, D.C.  Florida’s graduation rate has improved twenty-five per cent, and is at an all-time high. This reversal came about because Bush measured results, held schools accountable, and exposed them to competition. Even as adults vested in the system protested, student achievement accelerated.  On top of that, higher education has exploded, improving life and economic conditions for scores more individuals at all levels of life.

She raises some good points.  No matter your views on the presidential candidates, it is difficult to describe any of the reform efforts undertaken by Governor Jeb Bush as “risky.”  Indeed, given that in 1983 we learned we were a “Nation At Risk” due to its poor education system, the status quo may have been the riskiest move of all.

(Note, I am a board member of the Center for Education Reform, a group started by Ms. Allen).