Education performance in Delaware is mediocre in a country – our United States of America – whose performance is less than mediocre when compared to other major countries. More than 50 years ago Dr. Milton Friedman, a true visionary committed to improving education, rightly foresaw a top-down educational system being initiated system that would ultimately fail our children.
On July 31st, Dr. Friedman would have been 100 years old. The Caesar Rodney Institute, cooperating with Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, celebrated his birthday with the first of a series of conversations to inform the public about education renewal.
Dr. Matthew Ladner, a nationally-recognized expert in education policy, shared his experience with successful renewal programs. Speaking at Dover Downs, Dr. Ladner’s insightful presentation and answers to questions showed how Florida and other states are improving education performance using Dr. Friedman’s strategy to focus on student needs and parental choice. (Please click here to view Dr. Ladner’s slideshow presentation which is also available under the Special Report section of our website’s homepage)
Florida has made great gains and especially in an underperforming African-American, Hispanic, low income and special needs demographic using diverse programs targeted at specific barriers to progress. Upgrades such as:
- Improving reading performance in grammar school before the student begins to drop out because he or she cannot keep up and eventually feel they have somehow been cheated. Dr. Ladner cited the Annie E. Casey Foundation study indicating that 88% of high school dropouts had one thing in common: below-grade reading skills in the third grade. Florida implemented reading programs and eliminated social promotions for students with below level reading skills.
- Redesigning school evaluation to an easy to understand A through F rating system that parents and taxpayers can understand.
- A diversity of custom designed funding programs using tax credits and vouchers to give parents more choice of the education experience (public, charters, special needs and others) that best fit their children. In Florida, students with special needs outscore public school students in 21 other states.
- Other initiatives include: specific family literacy programs, upgraded parental notification of progress and teacher incentives for school and student performance.
Governor Jeb Bush and his policy team lead the change through the “A+ Program” that moved parents, children and teachers to actively engage in their schools and increase scores on National Assessment of Educational Programs (NAEP) tests. Change is not easy and it was not easy in Florida. Governor Bush’s vision for change prevailed in a tough re-election campaign when Florida’s equivalent of the Delaware State Education Association took a second mortgage on their headquarter’s building to add more financing to the opposition.
The Caesar Rodney Institute is committed to helping provide children with the literacy to live life-to-the-full as productive contributors to our society, and to continue the journey in the tradition of Dr. Friedman’s by “informing” the people of Delaware by promoting cooperation among the many diverse groups necessary to improving our schools. We are especially honored to have won the support of the Friedman Foundation and Dr. Matthew Ladner, to whom we extend our sincere gratitude for his visit to Delaware.