Why do we send our children to school? Obviously to learn to be useful and productive citizens. And along this path we poke and prod them endlessly trying to figure out how they are progressing, if they have a bad teacher or a bad school, etc. We gather stacks of data and have countless “data meetings” to detect info about everything it seems from flat feet to acne to multiplication tables.
All of this is done with one goal usually in mind–to get them through high school and enter the world of “high school graduate.” Which means, at least to me, that the most important single number in the great morass of K 12 education is high school graduation rate.
And it is now official that in the most recent ranking of states as to how well they are doing in grad rates, Alabama is doing quite well. In fact, in 2013-14, we were no. 19 nationally with a rate of 86.3 percent. The highest we’ve ever been.
A look at southern states shows that Alabama is better than Florida (76.1), Georgia (72.5), Louisiana (74.6), Mississippi (77.6), North Carolina (83.9) and South Carolina (80.1). Only Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee are ahead of us in this region of the country.
Especially significant is that we are more than 10 percentage points ahead of Florida. Yet, we are constantly being told that Florida has all the answers and we need to try our best to emulate them. We need to take lessons from them on charter schools, school vouchers, merit pay for teachers, using value added modeling to determine how good teachers are, letter grades for schools, etc.
In particular Jeb Bush latched onto education “reform” as his niche and planned to make it a major part of his run for president. After he left the governor’s office he created the Foundation for Education Excellence that spreads the reform message far and wide. He has some devout followers in Alabama. The largest scholarship granting organization in Alabama that gives private school scholarship is controlled by a group in Tampa.
But why do we want to be like a state that does a poorer job of graduating students from high school than we do? Makes no sense to me. It’s about like telling Nick Saban that he should go see Mike Shula to learn how to be a good coach.