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StateImpact Feature: Jeb Bush Talks Education


Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have signed on to implement new school curriculum and standardized tests.

It's called Common Core, and it'll replace Florida's FCAT.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is a big supporter of Common Core - and has been pushing this and other reform efforts around the country.

Education reporter Sarah Gonzalez with our StateImpact Florida team sat down with the conservative education advocate to talk about his national agenda.

Sarah: Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, thanks for joining me.

Jeb: Yes, delighted to be here.

Sarah: You are known as the "Education Governor," you were a big proponent of standardized testing when you were the governor, the FCAT, but now its being replaced by Common Core in 2014. What do you think about that?

Jeb: Well firs of all the FCAT, the dreaded FCAT that gives all children acne and makes then nauseous during the testing period, it will be replaced with a new test that will measure competency based on new standards. So the common core state standards are higher, they're fewer, they require more critical thinking skills and they will unfortunately at the beginning , they will probably show that close to two-thirds of our students are not college or career ready.

Sarah: We at StateImpact Florida are doing a series on remedial classes. We crunched the numbers and it turns out that of the students in Florida who graduated from high school recently, 54% of the students who took the college placement test had to take at least one remedial class. So they were not ready for college? Do you think that the goal of the FCAT was to determine whether or not students were college ready? Or just to determine whether or not students were ready to graduate from high school?

Jeb: Um, it's really a gateway to graduate from high school, not to be college ready, as evidenced by the fact that gosh 12% or 13% of students don't graduate because they can't pass a 10th grade level test, or worse yet aas you said 50% of our stduents need remedial work to be able to take a college course, which is why the Common Core standards I think are a better indicator of that.

Sarah: I'm wondering where does faith in Common Core come from? Because it hasn't really been field tested anywhere and proven to work anywhere, so where does your support come from?

Jeb: Right. Because I've talked to a lot of people who are experts in the field of standards and what kids need to learn in the 21st Century to be successful. And what they say is that the greatest country in the face of the earth measures itself to lower standards than what the best is in the world. So I would argue that we should embark on this journey.

Sarah: Now you have advocated for education reform in Florida and outside of Florida and I'm wondering in light of the recent election, I know that some of the education reforms that you were pushing like in Indiana and Idaho didn't pass like pay for performance, requiring online classes, things like that. Do you consider it a setback to your education agenda?

Jeb: Eh. Well it's not my education agenda it's the education agenda of the Indiana governor, the Indiana state school office, the Indiana legislature, the Indiana business community that Tony Bennett didn't get elected. In Idaho, my gosh, Florida requires one online course in order to graduate from high school. No big deal in my mind. But in Idaho that became a controversial thing, give me a break.

The unions are very good at defending their turf and that's exactly what happened in South Dakota and Idaho. That doesn't mean the fight stops, you know, the fight will continue. In Washington state there was a passage of a charter school law. Washington state was, I think, one of eight states that didn't have a charter school law. In Georgia, they passed a constitutional amendment to allow for a statewide authorizer for charter schools. to kind of force more innovation at the local level.

So it was a mixed night, for sure.

And at the national level we have an interesting dynamic. Education is one of the few places where you have left/right coalitions that are for reform and left/right coalitions that are against reform. Its not as monolithic as some other areas of policy so I don't think much changes with the Presidents re-election. In fact think this is the one area where there is enough common ground to build on it.

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