For a little more than a decade, Florida has been recognized as a model for modern education reform. And at the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s Annual National Summit, held this week in Washington, D.C., two policy representatives of the Jeb Bush-chaired foundation shared Florida’s “Formula for Student Achievement” to an audience of educators and policymakers from across the country.
During the Summit’s 10th Strategy Session, Dr. Matthew Ladner, the Foundation’s senior advisor of policy and research, and Dr. Christy Hovanetz, the Foundation’s senior policy fellow, both noted that there were many keys to Florida’s success in student achievement including school grading and school choice. Former Florida Board of Education member Julia Johnson moderated “The Florida Formula for Student Achievement” panel.
Before Florida became the model state for education in the early 2000’s, it was ranked 45th in high school graduation rates, according to Hovanetz. She said that in 1999, when the first school grades were issued, the Sunshine State had nearly twice as many D and F schools as schools earning A’s and B’s.
“You are not very popular when you come home and say you have more D and F schools than A or B schools in the state of Florida,” she began. “But it was a very, very important statement for Florida to make.”
Shortly after the state made that announcement at what Hovanetz described as a “tough” press conference, Florida began its journey to reforming its low-ranked education system.
When it comes to increasing student achievement, Hovanetz said that Florida looks at what percentage of students are proficient in core subjects such as reading, writing, math and science as well as a heavy focus on the students that are unable to read and do math.
She also mentioned that the state places special emphasis on the lowest performing 25 percent of students in individual schools across Florida.
“Florida does not look at school subgroups. We do not look at economic disadvantaged groups, racial or ethnic groups, or gender groups. We look specifically at the lowest 25 percent of students,” Hovanetz said. “Every single school in Florida has a bottom 25 percent. Not every school has all of the racial subgroups and economic disadvantage subgroups.”