The title above is a bit flippant, but since Jeb Bush's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal yesterday focused (again) on fourth-grade achievement data in reading, it's important to keep in mind that there are students in other grades, too. Florida's fourth-grade reading NAEP data is where you see the strongest evidence on the Florida policy effects of the past decade. PolitiFact rated the narrow claim about fourth grade as mostly true, using NAEP. There is an active debate about the extent to which third-grade retention is polluting fourth-grade achievement data, but I think there are broader and equally important perspectives:
- In the op-ed, Governor Bush ignored his own advocacy and support for a state technical assistance agency specifically for reading and for reading coaches in Florida's elementary schools.
- Governor Bush ignored possible effects of the voter-approved class-size reduction mandate since 2002 and the benefits the state budget and local school taxes received from the early-aughts real-estate boom in Florida.
- The evidence of achievement improvement in Florida, and of narrowed achievement gaps, is weaker in other subjects and for other grades. The gory details are in this spreadsheet.
For a little more detail, see my Q&A with Valerie Strauss in Answer Sheet from December.