By William Patrick | Florida Watchdog
TALLAHASSEE — When it comes to public education, Floridians have a lot to be proud of.
At least, that’s what one policy analyst from Michigan’s Mackinac Center is saying.
A new study by the state-based think tank compares Michigan’s student achievement and education policies with the Sunshine State’s. The conclusion: Michigan would be a top performer if it had enacted similar education reforms during the past 15 years.
The study shows that reforms expanding school choice options, teacher accountability standards and online learning programs,to name a few, have helped students tremendously.
Despite once outranking Florida, Michigan — and many others — now finds itself well behind the southeastern mega-state on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often referred to as “the nation’s report card.”
Since Florida’s education shift began, fourth-grade reading levels have increased 9.1 percent, while Michigan’s grew only 1.3 percent. The national average during the same period was 3.4 percent.
Similarly, fourth-grade math scores are up 11.2 percent, while Michigan registered a 4.5 percent increase, and the nation 8.1 percent.
Other important student-performance measures reflect a similar pattern.
The Mackinac report points to policy changes, not an increase in spending levels, to explain why Florida earned the second highest standardized test score gains in the country.
Education Week, a well-respected national research nonprofit, reports Florida consistently ranks near the top in education quality despite giving it an “F” for spending on its 2013 Quality Counts list.
Students from low-income families often are blamed for depressing standardized test scores. But as evidenced through a wide variety of sources, the reverse is true under Florida’s reform model.
“Florida’s students, especially those from low-income backgrounds, have been making substantial and unmistakable learning gains for more than a decade,” Education Policy Director Michael Van Beek said in a statement. “Michigan policymakers should take notice. There’s a lot to learn from this other peninsular state.”
The study outlines six key recommendations ranging from an “A-F” school grading system, to tuition tax credits, to limiting the “social promotion” of third graders who struggle with reading.
“There’s no ‘silver bullet’ here, but Florida’s example should be considered when setting the agenda to improve Michigan’s public education system in the years to come,” Van Beek said.
Contact William Patrick at [email protected]