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PRESS RELEASE

September 12, 2006

Caleb Offley
(518) 573-9175

National Experts Assess Florida PreK-12 Education
Report Praises Successes, Calls for Continued Reform

ORLANDO, Fla. — After undertaking a rigorous assessment of Florida's education policies and programs, the Hoover Institution's Koret Task Force on K-12 Education presents its findings and recommendations to Governor Jeb Bush on Tuesday, September 12.

The eleven-member task force will join Governor Bush in a press conference in Orlando highlighting the group's report: Reforming Education in Florida (Hoover Press, 2006). Earlier in the year, Governor Bush and Board of Education Chairman Philip Handy invited the expert group to examine the state's PreK-12 education system and offer suggestions for strengthening it.

The task force assessed current polices and offered recommendations for building upon the reforms Florida has already implemented. In its appraisal, the Task Force focused on some of the most pressing issues on the state's education agenda—accountability, curriculum reform, effective teaching, school choice, pre-school education, class size reduction and effective resource management.

The findings from the Koret Task Force's report show that, in many areas, Florida has become a national leader in education reform that has worked to the clear benefit of many students. Yet crucial tasks remain to be done and the Task Force's report provides important guidance to help inform future decision making by educators, citizens and state leaders.

"Florida's manifold accomplishments, while remarkable, only reveal just how much more needs to be done, if the nation's schools are to become the world-class institutions the country needs," said Koret Task Force member and Hoover Institution senior fellow Paul E. Peterson, who served as editor for the report.

Highlights from the Koret Task Force's recommendations are attached; the complete report can be found at www.KoretTaskForce.org.

The Koret Task Force members are among America's foremost education scholars, brought together by the Hoover Institution with the support of the Koret Foundation. All eleven Task Force members participated in the Florida review: John E. Chubb, Williamson M. Evers, Chester E. Finn Jr., Eric A. Hanushek, Paul T. Hill, E. D. Hirsch, Caroline M. Hoxby, Terry M. Moe, Paul E. Peterson, Diane Ravitch, and Herbert J. Walberg. Additional contributors include Paul Clopton, Elena Llaudet, Sonali Murarka, and Marguerite Roza.

The Hoover Institution, founded at Stanford University in 1919, is an interdisciplinary research center for advanced study on domestic public policy and international affairs, with an internationally renowned archive. For more information on the Hoover Institution, visit www.Hoover.org.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

Michele Horaney APR, Public Affairs Manager
Hoover Institution
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305-6010
P: 650-723-0603 F: 650-725-8611


Reforming Education in Florida
Recommendations from the Koret Task Force on K-12 Education

The task force's full report, Reforming Education in Florida (Hoover Press, 2006) can be found online at www.KoretTaskForce.org.

Overall Performance

  • Since 1998, students have made impressive gains in reading and math on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). Confirming these FCAT gains are striking gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), gains that exceed the national trend, especially in fourth grade.
  • Florida has been out-pacing the nation in the rate at which it is closing the ethnic achievement gap, particularly in the elementary school years.
  • Yet FCAT gains among high school students have not kept pace with those in the lower grades and NAEP scores for 17-year-olds remain low.

Accountability

  • Florida's A+ Plan has many features that make it a noteworthy model for accountability policies in other states and for the federal government.
    • Schools are graded on an intuitive, five-level "A" to "F" scale that parents and taxpayers can readily comprehend.
    • Schools are given a balance of positive and negative incentives.
    • The state's comprehensive warehouse of data enables educators to track individual students' progress from one year to the next, enabling schools to be evaluated both on the basis of overall student accomplishment and on the amount of individual student growth over the previous year.
    • A+ also holds students accountable with its graduation exam and its retention policy for low-scoring third grade students.
  • While this accountability system is superior to the one established by the federal No Child Left Behind act, it could be further enhanced by giving greater weight to students' growth.
  • Florida should consider extending its retention policy beyond 3rd grade.
  • Florida's current proficiency standards in reading and math need to be strengthened.

Curriculum

  • Based upon Florida's test-score gains at the elementary-school level, it appears that the undertaking known as "Just Read, Florida!" has enhanced reading instruction in the state.
  • Florida should thoroughly implement its current plans to revise state standards and grade level expectations through eighth grade to better align them with high school achievement goals. In all subjects, these guidelines need greater grade-by-grade content specificity.
  • In mathematics, the state should boost the rigor of its standards and expectations from fifth grade on and should develop end-of-course examinations for algebra and beyond to match the new standards.

Teachers

  • Florida has developed imaginative programs to enhance the recruitment and retention of high-quality teachers. Especially noteworthy are its alternative teacher certification program and its recent efforts to reward teachers who are particularly effective in the classroom.
  • As Florida's STAR program on performance pay is implemented, it should be carefully monitored so as to ensure that pay differentials are sufficient to retain high quality teachers in the classroom.
  • Building on its alternative teacher certification programs, Florida should move toward a more streamlined approach to certification, allowing principals to hire any candidate who possesses a bachelor's degree, demonstrates substantive competence, and passes a background check.
  • Veteran teachers should be required to demonstrate their competence by possessing a college (or graduate) degree in the relevant subject, passing a rigorous subject test, or showing that their students are making satisfactory achievement gains on the FCAT.

School Choice

  • Florida's array of school choice programs, including the McKay, Corporate Tax Credit, and, until recently, Opportunity Scholarship, as well as its charter and virtual school programs, has made the state a national pace-setter by creating a complimentary set of education options that benefit a variety of students.
  • The state should continue widening its school choice options and the legislature should make every effort to restore the Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Pre-K

  • Florida is making good progress in implementation of its new statewide pre-school program. Going forward, the state should, within constitutional parameters, concentrate its pre-school resources on segments of the population in most need of such services.
  • VPK program operators should be monitored for quality, integrity, and impact on student readiness for school. In this regard, Florida should develop a data system for Pre-K comparable to the one it currently has in place for K-20 education.

Class Size and Resource Utilization

  • Florida has done well at achieving fiscal equity among school districts and is well positioned, because of the quality of its data on school finance and student performance, to work on within-district equity and efficiency issues.
  • Florida should consider experimenting with pupil-based funding programs. Such experiments should be closely monitored to test whether schools with greater control of funds become more productive and to identify spending patterns that prove especially productive.
  • In place of the current class-size amendment, the legislature should devise and seek voter approval of an alternative approach that grants flexibility in the use of scarce financial resources to state and local education authorities.