Reforming our education
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Jan 03, 2013 | 2533 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne spoke this week to The Star about his plans for the nonprofit group Reform Alabama, which has dropped out of sight.

Reform Alabama is just regrouping, Byrne said. “We want to be quiet and listen to what legislators are saying. We’ll be active again by the start of the legislative session.”

On his list of proposed activities is more government transparency, constitutional reform and changes in the way we educate our children.

Education is a high priority because Byrne, a former chancellor of the state’s community college system, has long been an advocate of doing things the way they were done under Jeb Bush when he was governor of Florida. Byrne’s group also cites Louisiana as an example of a state “making strides while Alabama remains so far behind.”

Byrne and Reform Alabama could have picked better examples.

Although they are enamored of Florida’s charter-school arrangement and seem to like Louisiana’s voucher system — both of which have allowed parents to bypass public schools in favor of private schools that are supported by state funds — the argument seems to be that these institutions and arrangements give students a better chance to stay in school for 12 years and, thus, graduate.

Unfortunately for Byrne and his group, the latest studies do not back this up.

Alabama’s graduation rate is higher than that of both Florida and Louisiana, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education (“Four-Year Regulatory Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate School Year 2010-11”) that lists graduation rates nationally, using the same criteria so that meaningful comparisons can be made.

True, the difference is slight; Alabama graduates 72 percent of all students, Florida and Louisiana are tied at 71 percent.

However, campaigning for educational reforms based on systems that have a lower graduation rate than the system being “reformed” seems illogical at best.

If Byrne and Reform Alabama want to copy a more successful system, they might look to Tennessee, which graduates 86 percent of its students.

It would be worthwhile to find out how the Volunteer State is able to accomplish that.
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