Elementary and secondary schools in Florida have one job: preparing children for the next step in life, which in almost every case either is work or college.
Therefore, it is reasonable to ask: Are students graduating from public schools prepared for college?
Florida taxpayers used to know the answer.
Until 2012, students were given a college entrance exam. It tested how well they were prepared for college work after 13 years of schooling.
The results were not good. In some years, the tests showed half the students were unable to do reading and math at college level.
In effect, the high school graduation diploma those students given was a fraudulent document.
To help such students, they were put into developmental education classes. The professors were tasked with helping the students catch up by teaching them what they had not learned in 13 years.
Politicians decided they did not like this process and largely did away with it. At the same time, they removed the requirement for college entrance exams.
Public schools now test their students.
According to the local school system, the post-secondary readiness rate for reading for traditional schools is 82.02 percent; 80.61 percent for all schools.
For mathematics, the rate is 72.43 percent for traditional schools; 70.85 percent for all schools.
(Non-traditional schools are charter schools, dropout prevention schools, Department of Juvenile Justice schools, and ESE centers.)
While these results are not exactly stellar, they represent a great leap forward from the college entrance exam results reported in earlier years – if the two tests are even remotely comparable.
What accounts for the difference? Certainly not money.
If any credit is due, it is to the emphasis on standards and accountability that began some 22 years ago under Gov. Jeb Bush.
Rather than just throwing money at the schools, Bush insisted upon the schools demonstrating that they were earning the money by educating children.
Schools and school districts now are graded. Duval got a B grade in 2019.
It has some failing schools within the district and some are being phased out, either closed or merged with another school.
What effect the current pandemic will have on learning is yet to be determined but parents and taxpayers should continue to insist that the government schools prepare all students for what lies ahead.