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The Oklahoman: "Florida is worthy model for Oklahoma education efforts"

December 13, 2012

The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: December 13, 2012
Oklahoman

Oklahoma has implemented several important education reforms in recent years. It's no secret many were first pioneered in Florida, so it's worth noting how the Sunshine State has fared since starting down the same path in 1999.

As it turns out, Florida has done well - at least according to the latest Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, which compares the fourth-grade reading skills of students in 53 education systems around the world. For the latest report, Florida officials asked to be treated as a separate country to see how its students measured up with their global counterparts.

The PIRLS found Florida kids were outperformed only by Hong Kong students. U.S. students as a whole trailed Hong Kong, the Russian Federation, Finland and Singapore, and were roughly tied with kids in seven other nations. Florida students outperformed U.S. students, even though only public school students were included in the Florida sample and the U.S. sample included private school students. Also, 56 percent of Florida students are low-income and 57 percent are minority, higher than national averages.

Mike Thomas, who blogs on education issues for The Foundation for Education Reform (founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush), noted Florida "has gone from one of the worst reading states in the nation to one of the top reading nations in the world." He said the improvement is "a direct result of education reforms begun in 1999, targeting the most important indicator of academic success: early childhood literacy."

If a similar analysis compared Oklahoma to other nations, we would probably not fare that well. National Assessment for Educational Progress scores show Oklahoma ranked 40th among the 50 states in fourth-grade reading.

But then again, we just started implementing the data-driven reforms that have proved successful in Florida. The PIRLS reinforces that Oklahoma is on the right path to improve student performance.

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