MacIver Institute Report: Florida Again Shows Wisconsin the Way on Education

For Immediate Release | August 31, 2010

[Madison, Wisc..] For the second year in a row, a comparison of the educational systems in Wisconsin and Florida indicates policy makers in the Badger State have a lot to learn from their Southern peers.

“Americans of all philosophical backgrounds believe in providing equality of opportunity, and equipping all children with the skills necessary for success,” said Dr. Matthew Ladner, author of a new report issued by the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy. “People everywhere talk about reducing racial achievement gaps, but Florida is actually doing something about it.”

The MacIver Report suggests Wisconsin follow Florida’s lead in several areas:

  • Providing transparency in the evaluation of schools and teachers
  • Empowering parents to make and finance educational choices
  • Addressing an array of issues through effective literacy instruction

Focusing on literacy, the Report argues, helps close the achievement gap between minority students and their Caucasian peers. Better performing students stay in school longer therefore a commitment to effective literacy instruction also addresses the problem of a high drop out rate, according to the report.

“Where Wisconsin once led handily, the state’s entire population is now trails Florida’s Hispanic students in fourth grade reading scores,” reads the MacIver Report. “This group of students, which was once saddled with lagging test scores, currently outscores Wisconsin’s entire class of fourth graders when it comes to literacy.”

The report echoes Ladner’s 2009 findings for MacIver, which focused on academic standards, alternative certification and school choice.

“When we commissioned this ongoing comparison, 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. “We now have even more data to back up our suggestion that Wisconsin should emulate Florida’s model and implement similar systemic reforms.”

The MacIver Report details how several other states are already following Florida’s lead.

“Lawmakers in Arizona, Indiana, Louisiana and Oklahoma have passed Florida-inspired policies between 2009 and 2010. New York City has drawn from this experience – adopting A-F grades for schools, curtailing social promotion and embracing more options for parents,” said Ladner. “Georgia lawmakers have passed reforms based upon the policies of their successful southern neighbor. Wisconsin should as well.”

The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy is a Wisconsin-based think tank that believes in free markets, individual freedom and responsible government. MacIver commissioned Dr. Matthew Ladner, the Vice President of Research for the Goldwater Institute in Arizona, to author the Report.

The Report can be accessed here.