Education Reform and Colored Maps

April 5, 2010

 (Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

I read Paul Johnson’s book Modern Times as an undergraduate, and I’ll never forget his description of the Age of Colonial Empire.

Johnson said that while indeed there were vast fortunes to be made for some, that Empire also entailed enormous costs.

In the end, he said, European Empires were about colored maps.

Well, here’s a colored map for you- 4th grade reading scores for Hispanics in Florida compared to statewide averages in other states, via our friends at the Heritage Foundation.

That’s quite an empire that Florida’s Hispanics are creating, don’t you think? Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to joke that high performance on NAEP was directly correlated with proximity to the Canadian border, but notice the long list of predominantly Anglo states on the map: Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon, South Dakota, etc. etc. etc.

Notice also the presence of some states that have been very proud of their K-12 reforms in the past: North Carolina and Texas for instance. Oh, and one of the winners of the Race to the Top, Tennessee. I don’t need to write a sardonic comment, because you’ve already thought of one on your own. Feel free to share it in the comments section.

Here’s another smaller, but rapidily growing empire:

Florida’s African Americans tied or outscored two statewide averages on the 2007 NAEP, but their empire extended to 8 states in 2009. The Deep South may want to pull their heads out of the sand, because they are next on the list unless they pick up their games.

Yes, I’m looking at you Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee. Florida’s African American students have their hands on the Risk dice and are ready to invade you with their plastic armies. Florida’s Free and Reduced Lunch Eligible kids already outscore your statewide average for all students in your states.


Progress on the Achievement Gap

March 25, 2010


(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Loyal JPGB customers may recall one o f the earliest posts about how I went on an adventure in Oregon, noticed that everyone looked Anglo and wealthy, and asked What’s the Matter with Oregon? when I looked at their NAEP test scores.

Well, by way of update, Florida’s Hispanic students tied the statewide average for Anglo students on 4th grade reading in 2009. In fact, the exceeded or tied Anglo students in five states: Louisiana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon and West Virginia.

Florida’s Hispanics scored within a couple of points of Anglo students in huge number of states, including Iowa and Maine.

My first reaction?


My second reaction: somebody travel out to Oregon and wake up the policymakers. It’s a beautiful state you’ve got out there, but granola and illiteracy don’t mix terribly well.

Florida Crushes the Ball on 2009 NAEP Reading

March 24, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The NAEP released reading scores for the 2009 Reading exams for both 4th and 8th grade. Florida once again crushed the ball in improving student performance. While the nation’s  4th grade reading scores remained flat, Florida’s scores surged ahead.

In 2007, Florida’s Hispanic students outscored 15 statewide averages for all students on 4th grade reading. Two years later, Florida Hispanics tied or outscored 30 statewide averages. Florida’s Hispanics scored 13 points higher than the statewide average for all students in Arizona in 2009, over a grade level worth of learning (10 points roughly equaling a grade level’s worth of learning).

Arizona had company. Florida’s Hispanic students also outscored or tied the statewide averages for all students in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Florida’s African American students also beat the statewide average for all students in Arizona by a nose. Statistically speaking, this is a tie, but extraordinary nevertheless. In 1998, the average Arizona student scored two grade levels higher than the average Florida African American. Florida’s African American students outscored or tied the statewide scores for eight states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and New Mexico.

Florida’s success in improving academic achievement for disadvantaged students should inspire the rest of the nation to action.  Importantly, Florida’s reading scores also improved markedly for 8th graders, including very large gains among all the disadvantaged student subgroups, including Hispanics, African Americans, students with disabilities and ELL students. More on that later.

Congratulations to Florida students, teachers, school leaders and policymakers. Florida serves as a beacon to the rest of the nation, and should inspire us all to even greater reform efforts. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again now. When it comes to education reform…I’LL HAVE WHAT FLORIDA IS HAVING!

UPDATE: I left West Virginia off of the list of states which Florida’s Hispanic students outscore. West Virginia’s score for all students was 215, Florida’s Hispanics scored 223. So, make that 31 states for Florida Hispanic students!