The National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, has released the latest test scores for the 2009 reading exams for fourth and eighth grades. Florida hit another home run in improving student performance while Arizona is still waiting in the dugout. Arizona’s fourth grade scores remained unchanged at a low level; Florida’s scores surged ahead.
Florida’s test scores for its minority groups, which traditionally lag behind their peers in education, continue to be the most impressive. In 2007, Florida’s Hispanic students outscored 15 statewide averages for all students on fourth grade reading. In the latest test results, Florida Hispanics tied or outscored 31 statewide averages. Florida’s Hispanics scored 13 points higher than the statewide average for all students in Arizona in 2009. That represents more than a grade level’s worth of learning.
Florida’s African American students also essentially tied the statewide average for all students in Arizona. In 1998, the average Arizona student scored two grade levels higher than Florida’s average African American. Today, Florida’s African American students also outscored or tied the statewide scores for seven other states: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and New Mexico.
Florida’s success in improving academic achievement for disadvantaged students should inspire the rest of the nation. Arizona lawmakers are considering several bills based on Florida reforms, including alternative teacher certification, grading of public schools, expansion of parental choice programs and the curtailment of social promotion by retaining third-grade students who can’t read.
The unions and associations that got Arizona education into this mess (like the Arizona Education Association and the School Boards Association) oppose each of these reforms; but they are standing on morally untenable ground. With the right mix of policy and courage, Arizona could achieve the same sort of academic gains, and our disadvantaged students would be the biggest winners.
I have said it before and I will say it again: when it comes to education reform, I’ll have what Florida is having!
Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president of research for the Goldwater Institute.
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Goldwater Institute: Fortune Favors the Bold: Reforms for Results in K-12 Education
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