How $1.9 Million From the Race to the Top Grant Was Used as a Propaganda Tool For the Florida Model

Jeff Solochek of Gradebook calls attention to those reading scores everyone’s been bragging about for the last month.

Florida’s fourth graders are the second-best readers in the world, Gov. Rick Scott claimed during a recent discussion with black lawmakers.

That’s pretty great news, right? Well, hold on just a second.

Our friends at PolitiFact Florida investigated the claim to determine just how accurate it actually is.

While they deemed the facts of his claim are mostly correct, they said Scott stretched the truth a bit because the study doesn’t include every country – or even every state.

As it turns out, Florida is the only state which was included in the study.

Why? We paid.

“Scott would have been correct to say Florida finished second in the study, but he stretched the truth a bit when he said Florida ranked second in the world,” PolitiFact concluded.

Florida used $1.9 million of it’s Race to the Top grant to pay for what’s essentially been used as talking points to defend the Florida Model. Let’s take at a few examples.

* Florida board of education chairman Gary Chartrand opened the public hearing during which current education commissioner Tony Bennett was interviewed with “the good news.” Former chair and long-time associate Kathleen Shanahan touted the news as justification for Florida’s reforms and that they ought to end debate.

* The Florida Department of Education has a CNN report touting the results on it’s website.  To then interim commissioner Pam Stewart’s credit, she attributed the results to classroom interventions and focus by teachers.

* Jeb Bush’s foundation blog used the results to criticize Diane Ravitch. John Kirtley’s redefinED used the same post to call out Florida’s teachers and FEA president And Ford for “not celebrating teacher success.”

* Jeb Bush or his foundation has referenced the results during the past month to support the Florida model in Tennessee and Mississippi.

There are others. So why invest so much money in a survey which doesn’t even compare Florida to any other state? Who made the decision to do so? The flawed wisdom in doing so  is evident in that NAEP – a much more reliable and accepted measure – was showing the same thing.


About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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2 Responses to How $1.9 Million From the Race to the Top Grant Was Used as a Propaganda Tool For the Florida Model

  1. juliedelegal says:

    While standards-based education may well be a factor in public school improvements (increased gains in reading for fourth graders), we also must factor in the higher 3rd grade retention rate. As for “competition” being a factor in improvement as part of Florida’s “reform model,” an earlier study pegs improvement on the stigma of school grades. A later study, which only considered proximity of competition, found a statistical relationship between it and public school improvement, but ignored every other factor, including stigma, professional development, and smaller class sizes. Thanks, Bob, for this informative piece.

  2. Wait a sec–we were only compared to ourselves, and we STILL finished 2nd?!!! That’s a pretty lousy ranking!!! LOL

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