Thursday, June 30, 2011

Debunking Jeb Bush's 'Florida Formula'

Back in March, Florida's T-Party Gov. Rick Scott, signed into law one of the first and most damaging of the current wave of anti-teacher, anti-union bills passed by any state legislature. Among other things, the new law took away teachers' collective bargaining rights and has them working for "merit pay" based on their student's FCAT scores. It was crafted with the help of Scott's chief education adviser, Michelle Rhee.

But the real force behind the so-called "Florida Formula" was former Gov. Jeb Bush who had earlier tried and failed to push the package through in the form of SB6, only to have it vetoed by Scott's predecessor, Charlie Christ. Now Republican Bush, through his  Foundation for Excellence in Education, with eyes on a future run at the White House, and not so ironically any more, with support from from Pres. Obama and ed sec. Arne Duncan, is pushing his reform package nation-wide.

A recent presentation by Bush to Michigan legislators has been reviewed for the ThinkTwice think tank review project by Dr. William Mathis, managing director of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC).

In it, Mathis points out that Bush's formula is based on the claim that under his administration, large gains were made in state 4th-grade reading scores. These purported gains are then attributed by Bush to six broad reforms that were among the policies Florida enacted over two decades. The favored Bush reforms are: assigning letter grades to schools; high-stakes testing; new requirements for promotion and graduation; bonus pay for educators; new teacher credentialing alternatives; and vastly expanded school choice.

According to Mathis, instead of a comprehensive and objective consideration of the impact of Florida’s policies, the Bush presentation “is clearly an advocacy tool designed for advancing a particular set of reform proposals.” This has resulted in a misleading presentation, with Bush promoting several policies that rigorous research has shown to be ineffective or even harmful.
Regrettably, Bush’s Michigan speech relies on a selective misrepresentation of test score data. Further, he offers no evidence that the purported test score gains were caused by the recommended reforms. Other viable explanations, such as a major investment in class-size reduction and a statewide reading program, receive no or little attention. Moreover, the presentation ignores less favorable findings, while evidence showing limited or negative effects of the proposed strategies is omitted.

1 comment:

  1. Agree. Here is another analysis of Jeb's education reform failures:

    I suspect Jeb's using his education reform cred as a primer for a POTUS run in 2016.


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