On Education, Florida Again Serves as Role Model for Wisconsin

On Education, Florida Again Serves as Role Model for Wisconsin

New Data Reaffirms Conclusions of MacIver Institute Report 

[Madison, Wisc…] New test scores reaffirm conclusions from a MacIver Institute study that Florida’s education reform policies should serve as a model for the state of Wisconsin.

“Florida has established a blueprint for success that Wisconsin should follow,” said MacIver Institute President Brett Healy. “Set high academic standards, expect students to work hard, support innovation and make it easier for talented individuals to pursue a career in teaching.”

The National Assessment of Educational Progress released the 2009 4th and 8th grade reading scores this morning. Wisconsin students, especially those in the disadvantaged subgroups, continued to do poorly. In Florida, they are seeing continued success.

Nationwide, the scores were flat, but the gains in Florida were impressive. Florida’s Hispanic students outscored or tied 30 statewide averages for all students (including Wisconsin) for students on 4th grade reading, Florida’s African Americans outscored or tied eight statewide averages. Those numbers are up from 15 and 2 states respectively in 2007.

Florida also made strong gains in 8th grade reading, led by big improvements for all the disadvantaged student subgroups.

“Eliminating the racial achievement gap is doable,” said Healy. “It is merely a matter of political will.”

Fourth-graders in Wisconsin posted an average score of 220 on the 500-point reading test, for a proficiency rate of 33 percent and a decline of three points from 2007.

With an average score of 266, Wisconsin’s eighth-graders surpassed the national average by four points, yet only 34% of Wisconsin’s eighth-graders were considered proficient in reading.

Last year, the MacIver Institute released a report by Dr. Matthew Ladner that 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.

The MacIver study found that 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.