NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 30, 2006

Gov. Jeb Bush has worked with thousands of educators, policymakers, parents and students to reform public education in Florida. The reality of reform is vastly different from the theory, and change is a lot harder than it looks, he says, but there are a few rules that make real reform possible.

Among those rules, according to Bush:

  • When you run for office, you need to say what you're going to do and then do what you said you would. Candidates who aren't willing to take political risks won't take the policy risks required to drive real change.
  • If you don't measure, you don't care. You have to be willing to measure the outcome of reform and to let the world know what the real results are -- the ones you're proud of and the ones that show more work is needed.
  • Big reforms require long-term commitment. It's the cumulative effect of incremental improvement that creates significant progress.
  • Communicate what you're doing, especially to parents. Education reform can only be sustained when families know it's working.
  • Lastly, success is never final and reform is never finished. You are either in ascendance or decline, so if you aren't moving forward you are losing ground as well as opportunities for students.

It took a full generation of school decline to bring us today's problems, and it will take at least half that long to fix them, says Bush. In the process, Florida gives parents the power to move their children from a chronically failing school to another public or private school of their choice. The state also empowers students with disabilities to find the most supportive educational environment, whether public or private.

Source: Jeb Bush, "Five Rules for School Reform," Wall Street Journal, January 30, 2006.

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