Matthew Ladner

Breaking the Link Between Poverty and Low Achievement

Posted on April 07, 2008 | Author: Matthew Ladner
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Imagine if we carved a Mount Rushmore for successful progressive governors. Since the root word of progressive is progress, I nominate former Florida governor Jeb Bush to make the cut.

Progressives are concerned with the welfare of the poor. But a better definition, one might argue, would be someone who actually makes progress toward solving the problems of the poor. Like Jeb Bush.

The Florida governor is a right-winger, to be sure, but he sure looks progressive. A look at the graph below shows the progress Florida has made on breaking the link between poverty and low educational achievement.

Figure 1 compares progress on the National Assessment of Educational Progress 4th Grade (NEAP) Reading exam for low-income students (Free or Reduced Lunch Eligible) in Florida, compared to all students in Arizona, with scores on the vertical axis and time on the horizontal.

To qualify for the lunch program, a family of four must have an income of no more than $26,845. The median family income for the Arizona families whose student scores are shown here was $55,709.­ The chart makes it clear that Florida is breaking the link between poverty and achievement, in that its disadvantaged students are outscoring the average Arizonan. A similar result is evident in math, but the graph is not included here.

I have said in the past that theres a difference between a condition and a problem. A condition is something we've given up on and have grown to accept. A problem is something we aim to solve. A condition says that the poor are always with us.­ A progressive problem solver like Jeb Bush is equipping the poor to lead productive and rewarding lives.

Ironically, time is running out on our own Governor Napolitano to leave an education legacy not dominated by flat achievement scores and a mountain of debt. Not every governor can be Jeb Bush. But, by pursuing reforms that work, the Governor still has time to put the progress back into progressive.

Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president of research at the Goldwater Institute.

Learn More:

Goldwater Institute: I'll Have What Florida's Having

TC Palm: Florida trailblazing success in K-12 reform

Arizona Republic: Noble legacy in education is on table for Napolitano

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