I'll give Jeb! this--when education policy failed to carry him to the White House, he didn't just turn tail and pretend that he's never met the whole thing ever before (that was Common Core he disowned). And his policy right-tilted thinky tank is still at it, currently under the name Foundation for Excellence in Education, aka ExcelinEd.
In fact, the group has a whole new education policy playbook for 2022. And it looks very... familiar.
"States are the incubators of innovation," says the tiny head of Jeb. "With a relentless focus on advancing big and bold policies, governors and state leaders can prioritize students and transform education to give our next generation of citizens the very brightest of futures." There is no mention of the bright present of a previous generation of Florida students, who have been well-soaked in Jeb's big bold ideas.
So what are these ideas. There are five big, bold headings.
Close learning gaps.
The bullet points include "ensure every child can read by the end of 3rd grade," which is not a terrible goal, but experience tells us that reformsters don't really understand what it means and tend to seek "remedies" like holding students back who don't pass the state reading test. This does not work, for many reasons, and it ignores that the third grade reading success to later life success link is correlation, not causation.
EIE also wants to "assess learning every year" and "hold schools accountable for student outcomes" which means using punitive measures tied to Big Standardized Test scores, a policy we've been pursuing for at least two decades, with zero success. :et parents and educators know "about student progress" as if nobody has ever done that.
There are two bizarre items on the list. One is "equitably distribute high performing teachers," which has, again, been part of federal ed policy for a long time, only nobody can figure out how to do it. Assuming that you can identify high-performing teachers (you can't), exactly how do you redistribute them? Grab them on their way home from school, tie them up, and toss them ion a van? It's also emblematic of EIE's deep and profound lack of understanding education that they imagine a teacher who is effective in School A would automatically also be effective in Schools B through Z.
Finally, "distribute funding equitably across all public schools," which is a hoot coming from reformsters based in Florida, a state that perfected the art of segregated school funding. Though if I were a betting man, I'd bet that what they actually mean here is "We think charter schools are public schools, too, and while we used to claim that they could do more with less, we would now like to get a bigger slice of that big educational taxpayer money pie."
It's worth noting that there's no particular reason to think that any of these measures would close the "learning gaps," nor can I say hard enough that these all represent old, moldy policies.
Bridge the digital divide.
There's one good bullet point here-- provide devices and internet connections for "underserved" students. The rest is really another goal entirely.
High quality instruction and curriculum through online platforms. Develop online services for special ed, ELL, and SEL. Establish technology and instructional education accounts for families. So it's all about virtual schooling (a proven failure) ties to education savings accounts, aka super-vouchers.
Empower families with opportunity.
Well, you know where this is headed. Offer choice of any district in the state. Grow more charter schools "that are equitably funded" (told you). Let ed dollars follow the student. "Level the playing field" for special needs and low-income students via ESAs. Unbundle education at the course level.
So the complete dismantling of public education, while using a voucher system to abandon parents. Yes, I know it says "empower," but what a voucher/esa system actually does is say to parents, "We gave you some money--now you're on your own. Good luck in the education free market."
Strengthen pathways to college and career.
The short form here is "turn education into simple job training" while promising that it will be training for Really Good Jobs. EIE also wants to "blur the lines" between high school and post-secondary ed (because market expansion).
Oh, and they want to collect a ton of data, right in line with what Jeb's other super-group, the Chiefs for Change, has proposed. Collect all their school data, and also all their life-after-school data--just to be sure the program's working, you understand.
Credits for life experience. Personalize learning. Microschools. Learning pods. Old standards, particularly for the Put Your Personal Identity On A Blockchain crowd, most horrifyingly captured by The Ledger.
There's also "fund education based on the value of learning" and "rethink traditional hiring practices and allow teachers to bring school to students," neither of which is explained in the fine print of the "report."
There are more pages delving into these bullet points in greater detail, but none of it provides actual real support for this vision, which is the same vision this branch of reformsterdom has always pushed--not just quite so explicitly:
Replace public education with a free market system. Parents get a voucher/esa and a hearty wish of good luck. They then get to navigate a marketplace of many, many education-flavored products, which are largely unregulated but which are also, through some mysterious market process, high quality (you know--like the market has pushed Wal-mart and McDonald's to be strictly high quality).
This is what Jeb! and his crew want to push next year. It's what they've been pushing for years, but like many folks, they smell covid-created weakness and think maybe this could be the year they finally kill off public education in this country. Stay alert.