In some cases, being ranked 27th is a major accomplishment, but in other cases, it’s a cause for concern rather than celebration. Unfortunately, the latter sentiment applies to the state of K-12 public education in Florida.
Indeed, while newly-released rankings by U.S. News and World Report place Florida 1st in the nation when it comes to higher education, the perch is substantially lower — 26 rungs to be exact — when it comes to K-12 public education. To address this middling mediocrity, Steven Foxworth is part of a growing chorus of educators who believe that the right way forward is rooted in policies that address three core factors:
- Alleviate Classroom Overcrowding
Expecting teachers to maintain quality standards despite overcrowded classrooms is not just unfair, but it’s flat-out unrealistic. Teachers are human beings; not machines. Overcrowding inevitably means that students cannot get the personalized attention and focus they need. It also triggers excessive stress and burnout, which compels some teachers to change careers — not because they want to, but because they need to restore and protect their physical and psychological health.
Steven Foxworth says that it’s not enough for policymakers to provide guidelines or best practices regarding the acceptable teacher-to-student ratio. We need to put data-based standards in place, and consistently enforce them.
2. Invest in Professional Development
The most successful companies in the private sector understand that recruiting engaged and competent people is not the full picture. They also invest — some of them substantially — in professional development, so that they constantly increase the value of their human capital. The public education space needs to borrow from this playbook and make it a priority to invest in teachers; not just in administration.
Steven Foxworth states that criticizing teachers for bad test scores is regressive and counterproductive. Instead, administrators should be developing an inventory of skills and abilities that create robust profiles of the most successful teachers, and use this data to roll-out training programs. At the same time, we need to extend training to principals, superintendents, district leaders, and central office leaders. We’re all in this together.
3. Increase Funding
Last but certainly not least, expecting to rise from the 27th spot to number one — or at least crack the top 10 — is not going to happen without increased funding. Fortunately, there appears to be some movement in this direction per the 2019 Legislative Session, which concluded in early May, and which earmarks a $75 per student increase to the Base Student Association (BSA). It also boosts the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) by $242.60 per student.
The boost to the BSA is the most significant since 2015–2016, and the increase to the FEFP is the largest since 2013–2014. Hopefully, we will see more increases in the years ahead.
The Bottom Line
While we should be extremely proud of Florida’s students and teachers for high levels of achievement and impressive graduation rates, we should be doing more to promote the growth of our students’ education.
Steven Foxworth, who was inspired to pursue a career in education by his father, mother and grandmother — all of whom were teachers, adds “We can and must do better by implementing policies that go beyond superficial and temporary fixes and drive lasting change. We owe it to our students, to our communities, and to all of us who believe that quality K-12 education is the backbone of our community and country now and into the future.”