It looks like Wake County is finally getting serious about boosting minority student achievement. This morning’s News & Observer highlights how new data-driven guidelines supported by the new school board majority are helping to boost the percentage of high-performing minority students in gateway math courses. Under the old guidelines — which relied primarily on the judgments of individual teachers — many high-performing minority students were often shut out of key math courses which help to boost a student’s chances of being accepted to top tier schools.
The new policy is a step in the right direction. However, anyone truly serious about closing the minority achievement gap should not only expand access to needed classes but also look south. Florida has done a remarkable job of disproving the conventional wisdom about race and student performance. A quick look at average reading scores for Hispanics over the past decade on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reveals Hispanic average reading scores are higher than all racial and ethnic groups in thirty states. In addition, since 1998, reading scores for African-American students in Florida have also moved from below the national average to significantly above it.
How did Florida do it? Former Gov. Jeb Bush was the architect of a plan that focused on accountability, sensible reforms such as alternative teacher certification, limited social promotion and an emphasis on literacy and expanded parental choice in education. Florida also has the largest voucher program for parents of students with disabilities, 413 charter schools and is one of the nation’s leaders in online education. (For a larger discussion on Florida reforms see the article Demography as Destiny in Education Next ).
Florida has shown the reforms work. Why shouldn’t students in North Carolina have the same opportunities for success?