Governor Jeb Bush on Eduction Successes in Florida

Date:               29 Nov 13

Re:                  Governor Jeb Bush (Florida) and his education improvement success

For:                  Whom it may concern

By:                   Frank Gue      ‘<Filename: JebBushAndManShootBear


Background by Frank Gue:


Governor Bush came to Ontario to give an address on 30 Oct. 13 to educators, the Society for Quality Education, and others about the success Florida has had in improving its education system.


I have a long-standing habit of capturing the “Man shoot bear” bits of a speech and recording them for later reference.  (Any reader not acquainted with “Man shoot bear” is invited to call me for an explanation.)


Below is a record of what I consider to have been Gov. Bush’s “Man shoot bear” parts, with abridgment but no editing by me.




Gov. Bush’s speech:


In 1984, Florida was 29th or 30th out of the 31 or 32 states that administered the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NEAP) tests.  But in a few short years, Florida became a national leader and made huge advancements on many of the indicators that are out there.   So how did we do it?


The first thing was I said exactly what I wanted to do with enough detail that people knew I wasn’t kidding.  So my advice is:  Be big, be bold while you campaign, so that the campaign is about those ideas.  [Ontario political parties take note!  F.G.]


I put myself outside my own comfort zone … not much done in public life. … and to the surprise of a lot of people who don’t believe politicians, … I did it.


We graded schools ‘A” through ‘F’, half on learning gains, and half on proficiency.  {‘A’ or improving schools} were given $100 per student.  However, 85% of that money went to bonuses for teachers …


We created a voucher for schools where kids in failing schools could go to a private option of their choice.  We expanded testing through grades 3 through 10.We can track kids through post-graduate work and whether they got a job.  We can tie that to teacher performance, we can tie that to who their teachers were, and to what schools of education those teachers went to.  The teachers’ unions [and] the bureaucracies hated this.


So I have six suggestions [for educators and others].


The first is early literacy based learning.  We should worry more about whether a child can read than about whether he or she feels good.


We can determine [which pre-school environment – home schooling, religious, etc.] programs work and which don’t; and so that teachers can intervene early.  We [taught] teachers how to teach reading, because schools of education don’t.


We eliminated social promotion for 3rd graders.  We put 200,000 mentors in our elementary schools.  [In 3rd grade you learn to read:] in 4th grade you start reading to learn.  In 10 years Florida went from 39th out of 41 to 6th out of 50 [in the NEAP tests].


The third suggestion is that school choice needs to be at the core of any kind of transformed education system.  If there is a choice then every body improves.


Bureaucracies don’t like competition, they hare accountability, and what they do like is – no surprise – secure jobs.


Florida has the most ambitious school choice programs, public and private.  Half a million virtual courses were given last year.  We have the largest corporate tax credit scholarship program, the only voucher program for children with learning disabilities, the second-largest number of students attending independent or charter schools.  


High-quality digital content … is the new school choice element.


The fourth suggestion is that accountability matters.  There should be [different consequences for different results].  As I said, we graded schools based  on learning, with no fuzzy descriptions.  ‘A’ is better than ‘F’, unequivocally.


In 2005, we started including children with learning disabilities in our grading system.


Second-last, teachers matter a lot.  One kid [with a poor teacher] can be two years behind another kid [with a superb teacher].  [The gaps get so big the kid can never recover.]  If there were layoffs, and the ineffective teacher were hired one day earlier than the great one, the great teacher would be laid off.  [This is a teacher-friendly, not a child-friendly, model.]


And finally, standards matter a lot.  High expectations are the key to success.  That’s how it works every place I know.  If you dumb down expectations you are not going to get the results.  


Common Core State Standards for language arts and math were voluntarily created by 45 states, not by the federal government.  They are higher and fewer require critical  thinking skills, and prepare you for college or career, for which only 25% of US kids are prepared today  a tragedy of epic proportions.


We need to be honest: we’re not delivering great education success.  We need to renew ourselves with a dramatically different education system.


Thank you very much.


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