South Carolina can learn from FL schools

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Anyone with even a casual interest in public schools public education in South Carolina should read this article from the Washington Times.

Public schools in South Carolina continue to disappoint parents with consistently low SAT scores, a still widening achievement gap, and a massive dropout rate that ranks among the nation’s worst. All this bad news despite per-student spending over $11,000 per public school student.

The situation in Florida is very different. As the Times explains, “Three years before NCLB was enacted, then-Gov. Jeb Bush decided to set clear accountability standards, and to back them up with school choice for students and meaningful rewards for good teachers.”

Here is how it was done:

First, the state didn’t play games with test standards. Florida’s test methodology measures what students actually knows, not just how well they do compared with other Florida students. And each public school in the state gets its own A-F report card annually. Successful schools get bonuses. Failing schools get tough remedial action.

Second, Florida ended “everyone-passes” social promotion at the third grade. Failing students get early remedial help, not a free pass.

Third, Florida got serious about school choice, promoting a range of public and private options. For instance, 20,000 students with disabilities now receive private-school scholarships. And more than 100,000 children attend charter schools.

And, it turns out, school choice delivers an added bonus. The Urban Institute, a leading national think tank in Washington, found that competition spurred a general improvement in student achievement in Florida’s “F” schools. When faced with accountability pressure and choice, these schools tried new and better ways to raise standards.

Not only have Florida’s school choice programs saved taxpayers millions of dollars, they have also expanded opportunities for children with special needs and from low-income families. Most importantly, they have rewarded parents for being responsibly involved in their children’s education

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