Common Sense Solutions From States’ Education Reform Agendas

Nick Taddeo /

Although significant attention is being paid to the Obama Administration’s “Race to the Top” first round winners, one state is implementing rigorous education reforms without the help of the federal government.

In Florida, the State Senate has proposed legislation in two committees to strengthen merit pay for teachers and end tenure. The Florida Times Union reports:

The measure, sponsored by Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, would require the state to oversee the implementation of pay for performance models by local school districts, with those who don’t comply losing state funding that would then have to be replaced with a property tax increase.

In the process, protections for teachers widely known as tenure would be replaced by a continuing series of annual contracts…Student achievement would account for 50 percent of a teacher’s salary under the bill.

Utah has also taken a serious step in the direction of responsible education reform. The Utah State Senate passed a bill recently to ban the social promotion of first, second, and third graders who are not yet reading on grade level. The majority noted that reading skills are the fundamental building blocks of future learning.

The Arizona Senate recently passed a bill that would update how schools are graded. The bill would change a previously vague system of grading to a clear A-F format. This would easily show teachers, administrators, students and parents how their school is performing compared to other schools in the state. Arizona is following a path Florida blazed as part of its original set of sweeping reforms. The Sunshine State revamped its I-IV grading system to an A-F scale for schools, giving parents a clear indication of how their child’s school was performing. The results? Parents and administrators that sit on the edges of their seats waiting to hear if their school has made a passing grade. The St. Petersburg Times writes:

Katie Lail’s phone kept ringing Thursday with calls from excited teachers who couldn’t stop screaming. Their school – Mary Giella Elementary – had overcome the odds of serving a high-poverty area to earn an A in the Florida grading system and also make ‘adequate yearly progress’ under federal accountability guidelines.

These actions are great steps towards meaningful education reform. The states enacting these sensible reforms are showing their commitment to the students and parents they serve. Congress should look across the many states serving as laboratories of reform to find out “what works” in education, instead of continuing to support the status quo.