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Posted at 04:00 AM ET, 07/01/2011

Analysis challenges Jeb Bush’s ‘Florida Formula’ for ed reform

The series of school reforms that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is promoting — and being applauded — in states around the country as a formula for raising student achievement around the country was not actually successful, according to a new analysis.

The review was conducted by William Mathis, managing director of the nonprofit National Education Policy Institute at the University of Colorado at Boulder School of Education, and looks at a presentation Bush made to Michigan legislators on June 15.

Though Bush hasn’t been governor of Florida since 2007, what he says about school reform today matters. He has become a guru to a number of governors across the country who see the program he launched in 1999 — and kept promoting through his two foundations after he left the governorship — as the right path to school reform. The mission of his Foundation for Excellence in Education is to support reform in other states “primarily based on the success of the Florida Formula on Student Achievement.”

Bush’s presentations center around six reforms that he says helped raise student achievement:

*Giving schools a grade A through F based on state student standardized test scores.

*High-stakes testing

*Setting new requirements for promotion to the next grade and high school graduation

*Performance pay for educators

*Teacher credentialing changes

*Expanded school choice in the form of charter schools, virtual education and vouchers.

Bush attributes the implementation of these reforms to a rise in student scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress, known as the nation’s report card, most prominently in fourth grade reading scores.

What Bush rarely discusses are the actions taken that were most likely the cause of that rise: a state reading initiative that included the placement of reading coaches for third graders, a voter-approved referendum to reduce class size, and an emphasis on early education.

Furthermore, Bush instituted a policy that held back third graders who scored low on standardized tesets, eliminating them from the fourth-grade test until they had another year to develop.

Mathis says that the Bush policy of assigning letter grades to schools has been followed by “a growing gap and greater inequities between higher- and lower-rated schools.”

And he notes that Bush does not offer any proof that alternative teacher credentiailing has improved teacher quality, or that expanded school choice has influenced test scores.

Bush has become such an important figure in school reform that President Obama this past spring traveled to Florida — while Wisconsin teachers were protesting their Republican governor’s attempt to strip them of most collective bargaining rights — to share a stage with Bush and declare him a “champion of education reform.”

Instead, Mathis wrote, that Bush’s presentation about Florida reforms failres to address real problems while advanced “false solutions.”

“Unfortunately, if research is our guide, the effect of the Florida reforms will likely prove to be a more inequitable and inadequate educational system,” he wrote.

And not just in Florida.

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By  |  04:00 AM ET, 07/01/2011

 
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