Florida No. 2 in the Nation on StudentsFirst Education Report Card
Around the State
Florida is far from perfect, but for the second year running a national group advocating education reforms has ranked the Sunshine State No. 2 in the nation for instituting new school policies it hopes will improve student achievement.
Just after midnight Tuesday, StudentsFirst -- founded by former Washington, D.C., Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee -- released its second annual report card evaluating education policies in 50 states and the capital.
Florida came in only a couple of tenths of a point behind top-graded Louisiana, virtually the same as it did the year before. Seven states -- Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming -- scored the lowest, receiving F's.
The Sacramento-based organization graded states on 24 policies it believes are the “biggest levers for change” in the classroom. These policies ranged from improving teacher effectiveness and parent engagement to ensuring return on investment for education dollars and changing collective bargaining laws. View and download the 2014 State Policy Report Card by clicking here.
"Aside from the ranking, we're really using this to highlight the policy we'll be pursuing this upcoming session," said Lane Wright, Florida press secretary for StudentsFirst.
Florida's lowest-scoring area was fiscal transparency, an area Wright and others in the state believe is fixable and the key to moving into the No. 1 report card spot next year.
Wright says, currently in Florida we can’t answer simple questions about how our education tax dollars impact student learning. There is no easy way, for example, to tell how an ‘A’ school in a particular district allocated its funds compared to a school that scored a ‘D’ or ‘F.’
According to report-card analysis, by linking the school-level academic and financial data the state already collects, parents and policymakers can have a clear picture of how specific education spending affects real learning in the classroom and make sure those dollars are explicitly tied to student achievement.
“It seems like every year people call for more spending on education. While there’s certainly a place for that, the reality is we don’t have a clear enough picture of how wisely we’re spending the money we already have,” said StudentsFirst Florida State Director Nikki Lowrey. “We need to connect the school-level academic and financial data the state already collects to see what kind of a return we’re getting on various school investments.”
Parents and leaders from South Florida and Tampa Bay also expressed their support for fiscal transparency.
“This type of fiscal transparency is great for students, parents, and hard-working taxpayers,” said Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah. “Legislation like this will give every taxpayer confidence that his or her tax dollars are being put to the best uses possible when it comes to education.”
Holly Haggerty, parent and executive director of the Community Learning Center in Clearwater, said, “At the end of the day, the goal should be to make sure we’re spending money in a way that helps as many students as possible get a great education. It’s common sense to link the educational and financial data the state already collects on schools so we can see how effectively we’re spending our money to reach our goal.”
How StudentsFirst Describes Itself
"StudentsFirst is a bipartisan movement of more than 2 million citizens nationwide working to ensure educators are valued for the critical role they play in kids' lives, families have high-quality school choices and a real say in their children's education, and our tax dollars are spent wisely on what works for kids. Led by former Washington, D.C., Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst is active in 18 states and has successfully helped pass more than 110 student-centered policies across the country. For more information visit www.studentsfirst.org."
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423.