Learning begins before a child enters the classroom.
Our brains are incredibly open to learning in our youngest years—but not all families can provide their kids the exposure they need to jumpstart learning. Moms and Dads are the first teachers in every child’s life. If we want to help children get a jump-start on learning, we need to begin with family literacy efforts.
What gets measured gets done.
If we are going to prepare students to compete in a knowledge-driven world, we need to set higher standards for achievement in core subjects. Setting higher standards—and measuring to them—really, really matters. You can’t know if you are getting better if you don’t set the standard and measure to it.
A student’s learning reflects the work of the teacher.
Second to parents, teachers have the greatest impact on a student’s academic performance. Because of their critical importance in a child’s life, we must prioritize developing and retaining a workforce of qualified, effective educators. This means including student learning in annual teacher evaluations, committing to higher pay for effective teachers and treating teaching as a profession rather than a hierarchy.
Successful reform requires carrots and sticks.
Florida has a K-12 accountability system that assigns each school an A-F grade based on their students’ learning gains and proficiency. In addition to bragging rights, successful schools receive an additional cash dollar amount per student. Since implementing the system in 1999, Florida has yielded the largest student learning gains in the United States. We all do better when there are rewards for excellence and repercussions for failure. Like in every other area of life, accountability works wonders in education.
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. The moment we become satisfied with our progress and stop raising standards is the moment our students lose their competitive edge in today’s global economy.
The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.
Jeb Bush served as the 43rd governor of Florida, from 1999 to 2007. During his two terms, Bush championed bold reforms in education that led to significant and continual rising student achievement. Since leaving office, he has maintained his passion for reform as Founder and Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Jeb Bush is principal of Jeb Bush and Associates, LLC. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Latin American Affairs from the University of Texas at Austin. Bush and his wife Columba live in Miami and have three grown children.