Q&A of the Day – Florida’s Improvement in Education Outcomes  

Q&A of the Day – Florida’s Improvement in Education Outcomes  

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.   

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com  

Social: @brianmuddradio 

iHeartRadio: Use the Talkback feature – the microphone button on our station’s page in the iHeart app.    

Today’s Entry: Brian, something that seems to be lost in the hype and controversies about Florida’s education policy changes is their effectiveness. DeSantis made education a priority from the onset of his administration and his policies have been effective at improving education. No one really talks about that anymore. Could you please compare Florida’s education outcomes today to where they were prior to his reforms? Thank you.  

Bottom Line: You raise a good point. As we enter a new school year today against the backdrop of questions being raised about pronouns, bathrooms, African American history, AP Psychology and sexual orientation education, it’s easy to forget the bigger picture. Florida’s education story is a great one. Starting with the fact that according to US News and World Report, Florida, for the first time ever, is the top state for education across all levels. For many of us who’ve lived here for a while its borderline shocking considering that fewer than six in ten students in Florida graduated from high school as recently as 19 years ago. We’ve come a long way. And to your point Governor DeSantis made education a top priority from the day he took office. In fact, in checking my research on DeSantis’ education policies for this story, the first related story I brought you occurred prior to his even having taken office. In December of 2018 I brought you a story entitled: Ron DeSantis hits a homerun for school choice in Florida. Obviously, my assessment was on point given that his prioritization of school choice in education has now culminated in universal school choice for Florida’s families this school year. Shortly after becoming governor, he produced a record pay package for Florida’s teachers significantly overhauling teacher pay in the state of Florida. And before long Governor DeSantis outlined the end of the Common Core curriculum in lieu of the B.E.S.T standards. The multi-year process to replace Common Core was completed on February 7th of 2020, ironically just prior to the onset of the impact of the pandemic, when Governor DeSantis announced:  

Florida has officially eliminated Common Core. I truly think this is a great next step for students, teachers, and parents. We’ve developed clear and concise expectations for students at every grade level and allow teachers the opportunity to do what they love most – inspire young Floridians to achieve their greatest potential. These standards create pathways for students that lead to great college and professional outcomes and parents will now be able to reinforce what their children are learning in the classroom every day. Florida’s B.E.S.T. Standards were made by Florida teachers for Florida students, and I know they will be a model for the rest of the nation. 

And what’s happened since? Florida’s education performance has surged, especially in comparison to the performance of other states. Aside from the curriculum changes, pandemic related policies to reopen schools, end remote learning, other than via the Florida Virtual School program and to ban mask mandates by the DeSantis administration proved huge in educational outcomes.  

In answer to today’s question here’s DeSantis’ before and after education story as of today: 

  • High School graduation rate: 86.1% to 87.3% (3.7% better than the national average) with a peak of 90.1% during the pandemic 
  • College graduation rate: 60% to 66% (4% higher than the national average) 
  • Florida improved from seventh to first in education at all levels including improving from 28th to 14th in K-12 education 

While the focus when talking about education is largely about K-12 education, the improvement in college outcomes is relevant to the conversation as well. Obviously the better the outcomes are in K-12 education, the better the outcomes are likely to be in college as well. Florida’s collegiate system was already the top ranked in the country prior to DeSantis’ time as governor, however we’ve seen the steady improvement in K-12 education results translate to significant improvement in collegiate outcomes as well with 10% more students graduating from college than did five years ago. Florida’s education story is one of many good stories that’s continued to get better in recent years. Good policies, including the complete overhaul of the curriculum, are evidenced to have played an important role in making it happen.  

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