Richard R. Renner: Florida still a leader, somewhat


Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 2:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 2:35 p.m.

Florida’s public education ranking recently dropped from 5th to 11th place among the states (Sun Jan.13). Still, it does pretty well considering all the budget cuts. Limited class size helps keep up teaching effectiveness and quality. Then too, our public-school standardized state tests demonstrate that pupils are actually acquiring some knowledge. This form of accountability helps assure that Florida’s poor children really are less likely to be “left behind.” No longer is it just a claim made local school boards. Our former governor’s brother, George, signed the federal law that helped make it possible.

In the same issue of the Sun, Paul Krugman laments that our states usually fail to provide genuinely equal access to children from poor families; for them there is” no level playing field.” One long- term study showed that in America, smart poor kids are less likely to get a college degree than dumb rich kids. And an assessment of American students’ knowledge and skills in 70 countries found that the US ranked only 14 th out of 34 OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries; 15th of 29 for reading skills; it ranked 21th out of 30 for scientific literacy.

The OECD countries’ educational strength rests in large part on their tendency to limit admission to advanced schooling and a living subsidy to those who have demonstrated superior ability and motivation. Such incentives are rare in American public schools. In recent years, our schools have served to provide an easily-satisified rite of passage that serves to confer psychological contentment and egalitarian status to almost anyone willing to put in the time,

Richard R. Renner,

Gainesville

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