Full article can be found here: http://educationnext.org/advice-for-education-reformers-be-bold/
The Florida Miracle
Florida students under Jeb Bush made some remarkable progress (see check the facts, Fall 2012(forthcoming)). Florida was the first state to start grading its schools, A to F, based on student performance; it stopped social promotion in 3rd grade; it paid teachers more if their students performed better; it gave parents more choice, with vouchers and charters; and it revamped the teacher certification process to let more people into the pool.
If you ask Bush the secret to his education reform success, he’ll say “hard work.” But one of the surprising pieces of advice Bush passes on to would-be education reformers is to “be bold.” One might think, for a governor who managed to get so much education reform passed in his state, that he would have suggested a more pragmatic, at least, incremental, approach.
“On the big things you’ve got to be impatient and you can’t accept compromise,” he insists. “You can accept consensus, but you can’t accept compromise, particularly if compromise yields mediocre results.”
Mediocre results, as Bush sees it, only embolden those who oppose reform and make the next reform effort harder. “Education reform needs to be focused on student learning,” he says. And it needs to be focused on the big picture. “You challenge people by pointing out that only a third of our children are college and/or career ready after a K–12 experience, where we spend more per student than any country in the world. If someone can come up with an improvement on that number with the current systemic flaws, then I’d be all for it. But I don’t think that’s possible.”
Bush, though out of office for nearly five years, continues to spread his reform ideas. He established his Foundation for Excellence in Education in 2008 “to ignite a movement of reform, state by state, to transform education for the 21st century.” Bush argues for “a suite of reforms,” based on his Florida success, that need to be “implemented faithfully and in a focused way.” That suite includes “public and private school choice,” which would be “a catalyst to improve the system”; better teacher training and evaluation; school evaluations based on student performance; and more digital learning. His ExcelinEd team hosts visiting policymakers in Miami, where Bush has his offices; he also sends the team around the country to advise and train education policymakers on these reforms. He organizes and supports a group of state education leaders called Chiefs for Change; and, with former West Virginia governor Bob Wise, he’s pressing another initiative, Digital Learning Now!
It’s an ambitious agenda, especially for someone who claims to spend most of his time attending to his business-consulting and real estate–development enterprises.
“I am motivated by looking over the horizon and seeing a country in decline,” says Bush about his education efforts. Sitting in a small office on the gorgeous grounds of the Biltmore Hotel estate (which once played host to Hollywood and European royalty), Bush is happy to be “a mile from home and ten minutes from the airport.” Pictures of his wife, kids, and granddaughter, along with mom, dad, and big brother, dot one wall; a large American flag hangs on another. “Education outcomes have always been important,” he says. “But now it’s critical, because it really does define one’s destiny over the long haul.”