In Support of Florida Virtual School

Florida Comprehensive Assessment test scores came out last night and they stunk. Particularly in Miami-Dade. Yeah, the Herald made a big deal about Liberty City Elementary improving. And over the years, we have improved. I thank Jeb Bush for that. Lawton Chiles gets a C and Charlie Crist an F.

Fact is that less than two-thirds of third graders in the county read at grade level. And Miami-Dade is among the bottom five counties in the state -- and clearly the worst big county.

But perhaps the most interesting things about the results is that Florida Virtual Academy showed about 90 percent of the kids reading at grade level. It was a small sample, but the numbers were tops. It's a supplemental school praised by conservatives and based in Orlando that is ten years old and generally meant to supplement regular schools. 

The state legislature threatened to mess with it this year, then backed off. Some teachers have seen the place as a threat -- and pushed to take away its money.

But it's clear, I think -- and these test scores confirm -- that Florida has long lagged behind the rest of the country. Putting money into this school -- which has been of service to 85,000 students -- is innovative. That's something badly needed in a state that spends about $7000 per kid per year -- a really pathetic amount. The state's making progress -- and bad economic times should  make us lean more heavily on this sort of thing...not less.   

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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse