Putting Education Reform To The Test

Education Foundation Blogger Defends Jeb Bush’s Record

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A blogger with the Foundation for Excellence in Education is playing tenacious D over a Reuters story critical of former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Remember that Reuters story last week which took a longer look at claims that Florida schools have improved under former Gov. Jeb Bush’s leadership?

A blogger for the Foundation for Excellence in Education — one of two foundations Bush started to support his education agenda — has responded. Mike Thomas counts the Reuters piece among stories “crafted to reach a pre-ordained conclusion.”

Thomas cites a list of examples where he feels the story’s author cherry-picking contrary data or just ignored evidence entirely. This includes improving test scores from black and Hispanic students; expanding access to Advanced Placement courses; increasing the percentage of students taking the SAT — and earning higher scores.

He also faults the story for attributing school improvement to a constitutional amendment limiting class sizes, when the amendment was not fully phased in until after Florida schools had started showing improvement.

Thomas argues that Bush deserves scrutiny, but that the facts are nuanced:

Of course Florida isn’t going to record the kind of academic scores you see in Massachusetts. Florida has a 56 percent minority student population, with 57 percent of students on free-and-reduce lunches. Florida has a much greater percentage of students who speak English as a second language. The Great Recession hit Florida much harder than other states. Yet the state has moved the needle in a meaningful way. Does Florida have a very long way to go? Absolutely. Is everything Florida does perfect? No. Did Florida gains backslide a bit in 2011 after more than 10 years of solid gains. Yes.

Does digital education, still in its DOS phase, have a ways to go? Yes. But digital education has unlimited potential for customizing education for each student. I understand there are for-profit companies involved in digital ed. And to that, I say that the best software companies in the world are for-profit. Please, let them compete over the business of educating kids instead of just entertaining them.

Should Jeb Bush be scrutinized? Definitely.

But a news operation with Reuters’ reputation has a responsibility to present a balanced view of major issues like education. That certainly was not the case here.

We expect you’ll see a lot more stories taking a second look at Bush’s education record as the 2016 Republican primary draws nearer. You’ll also see supporters circling the wagons to defend his record both in and out of office.


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