Florida ranked high on an education policy report card issued today by StudentsFirst, the advocacy group founded by Michelle Rhee. The Sunshine State earned a B- on the report card, behind only Louisiana, which did just slightly better.
The report judges states on their education policies -- not student achievement. So Massachusetts, a leader when states are ranked on student performance, earned a D.
The group says it evaluates states on whether they have "the right policy environments in place to best raise academic levels from where they are today."
StudentsFirst was created by Rhee, the former schools chancellor in Washington, D.C.. It carries weight in Florida since Gov. Rick Scott tapped Rhee to be one of his education advisers after he won his election.
This is the group's second State Policy Report Card. It highlighted Florida education polices it likes -- school grades, teacher evaluations tied to student performance, among others. But also criticized the state for a lack of "financial transparency."
A previous version of the report was mocked by the National Education Policy Center, which gave it one of its "Bunkum Awards" for "low ights" in education reserach.
The center said the report deserved The "Look Mom! I Gave Myself an A on My Report Card" Award because it graded states on how well they meshed with group's "subjective values."
StudentsFirst advocates many of the same policies as Florida leaders have pushed, such as tying teacher pay and job security to student performance and more school choices for parents.
The group has pushed, unsuccessfully, for Florida to adopt a "parent trigger" bill that would give parents for say in the fate of some struggling schools.
The report "praises the state for its policies that promote teacher and principal evaluations, A-F grading of schools, and student assessments," the group said.
But it said it need to do more to link school financial and academic data.
"Currently in Florida, we can’t answer simple questions about how our education tax dollars impact student learning. There is no easy way, for example, to tell how an ‘A’ school in a particular
school district allocated its funds compared to a school that scored a ‘D’ or ‘F," the group said.
“It seems like every year people call for more spending on education. While there’s certainly a place for that, the
reality is we don’t have a clear enough picture of how wisely we’re spending the money we already have,” said Nikki Lowrey, StudentsFirst Florida's state director. We need to connect the school-level academic and financial data the state already collects to see what kind of a return we’re getting on various