Minnesota Education Doesn’t Need Bush’s Help

/ 26 April 2011 / Parents United

Matt Caminiti, Minnesota 2020, April 26, 2011 –

Conservatives are fired up about former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s Minnesota visit today. They invited him here to talk about education reform.

During his presentation at the capitol, Bush touted his Florida education track record, saying his policies “increased both scores and graduation rates, particularly for minority students,” according to a Star Tribune account.

But let’s take a closer look at those claims and the types of policies Bush is marketing to Minnesota education policy makers. Could they actually contribute to the betterment of education in Minnesota? Moreover, have Bush’s policies even been successful in his own state?

The answer to the latter question is certainly not a simple yes or no. However, many studies suggest that Bush’s “A+ Plan for Education” has resulted in C results at best.

Floridian newspaper TCPalm highlighted the fact that even 10 years after the 1999 implementation of Bush’s “A+ Plan,” Florida still ranked in the bottom five states when it came to graduation rates. Furthermore, over the same 10 years, 61% of 10th graders still read below the national average.

Another flawed aspect of Bush’s system was its rating of public schools on an A to F scale. Not only did this stigmatize schools which received lower marks and in turn hurt enrollment, but curriculums began to focus primarily on preparing students for the FCAT test (similar to our MCAs). In doing so, the arts, music, and drama quickly fell off as prioritized subjects.

Additionally, his claim about closing the achievement gap is largely mischaracterized. A study from The National Education Policy Center pointed out blatant oversights by the Heritage Foundation, which declared Bush’s policy successful in closing the racial achievement gap.

The Heritage Foundation’s study bases its claims only on Florida’s 4th grade reading tests, which have enjoyed the most success because of how the student promotion system is designed. The study almost completely ignores all other subjects and tests. One such test that it ignores is the grade 3 reading test, which saw significant failures from minority groups, and thus prevented their advancement to grade 4 and in turn inflated grade 4 reading test scores.

In no way should Minnesota, with its rich educational history, take Florida’s lead in education policy.

Minnesota ranks 4th in the nation in the four-year high school graduation rate, at more than 79%, according to a recent MPR story. Minnesota students consistently place at the top in the ACT college entrance exam. Our standard for teacher licensure is one of the county’s most stringent.

While there is still much progress to be made, it seems as though Minnesota is clearly on a successful path without Florida’s help.

The Bush visit is a distraction and gimmick. If we want to continue our educational excellence, we must get back to what’s made Minnesota great: proper education investments and high teacher standards.