Close The Achievement Gap By Following Florida’s Lead

[New Berlin, Wisconsin…] Wisconsin’s educational system could see dramatic improvements if the state were to follow Florida’s education reform lead, according to a new report issued by the MacIver Institute.

“Wisconsin has long prided itself on being a progressive state; however, in K-12 education Wisconsin needs much more progress,” said Matthew Ladner, the report’s author. “Florida’s decade of education reform demonstrates just how much progress could be achieved.”

On Wednesday, the Wisconsin-based free market, pro-liberty think tank, issued a report authored by the Goldwater Institute’s Ladner, which compared Wisconsin and Florida’s position on three key issues: Academic Standards, Alternative Certification and School Choice.

Wisconsin lags the sunshine state in all three areas.

“Florida students are improving academically at a significantly higher rate than Wisconsin students,” the report concludes. “In addition, children from minority populations are making the greatest improvements, demonstrating that Florida is making progress in the reduction of the achievement gap.  The aggressive education reforms implemented by Florida policymakers over the past decade appear to be having a positive impact.”

The gap between the achievement of minority students in Wisconsin and their counterparts is among the widest in the nation. To close the achievement gap, the MacIver Report suggests Wisconsin follow Florida’s lead in three areas:

  • On School Choice, the comparison between Florida and Wisconsin actually involves what Florida did right, rather than what Wisconsin did wrong. Both states have pursued expanded parental choice options, but Florida has simply done more.
  • Alternative certification opens whole new pools of talent for entry into the profession. When judging the racial and ethnic composition of the teaching workforce compared to that of their population over the age of 21, Florida, which has embraced genuine alternative certification for teachers, has one of the most racially integrated public school teaching forces in the nation. By contrast, Wisconsin schools have only half the number of minority teachers as there are minority adults, aged 21 and older, in the population.
  • The report finds the largest gap comes when comparing the states’ academic standards. In fact, Wisconsin’s accountability standards are embarrassingly far off from Florida’s; with what might be the most lax academic standards in the country.

“When we commissioned this report, we had hoped to find results that would spur debate and lead to real efforts to improve education in Wisconsin,” said MacIver President Brett Healy. “It is clear that policymakers from Wisconsin and across the country should study Florida’s model and implement similar systemic reforms.”

The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy is a Wisconsin-based think tank that believes in free markets, individual freedom and responsible government.


Find the paper here: MacIver Report Wisc./Fla.