Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was in town yesterday to talk with Minnesota legislators about how the Sunshine State accomplished improvements in student performance and graduation rates. In 1998, Florida's fourth and eighth graders scored at the bottom nationally in reading and math. Ten years later, after implementing several key reforms, Florida's fourth and eighth graders score higher than the national average in reading and math.
This legislative session, Minnesota has considered or is considering policies similar to the ones adopted in Florida. Earlier this year we celebrated the passage of a law that opens up new paths to teacher certification to get great teachers into the classroom faster. And right now the legislature is considering two more reforms that would put Minnesota on the path to seeing the kinds of gains in student achievement that Florida has seen: 1) building a barometer of teacher effectiveness by establishing an objective system for evaluating teachers on a regular basis and 2) clearing the path to quality pre-K by implementing a quality rating system to help parents choose the best preschool program for their child.
The kind of progress made in Florida can be made in Minnesota, too. As Bush points out, it's not the sunshine that makes the difference. It's adults willing to do right by our kids.