Florida Public Colleges and Universities Get High Marks

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce evaluated public colleges and universities in all 50 states. Florida got an overall grade of “A” for its public institutions of higher learning. The study was done by the Institute for a Competitive Workforce (ICW). Unlike other studies that looked at inputs like student acceptance rates and the amount each state spends on higher education, this study looked at outputs such as student graduation rates and graduates turning their degrees into jobs.

ICW reports, “Florida’s four-year institutions are among the nation’s leaders in credentials produced per 100 full-time equivalent undergraduates, the percentage of undergraduates receiving Pell Grants, and retention rate. The state’s two-year institutions score very high marks in credentials produced per 100 full-time equivalent undergraduates, completion rate, and retention rate, though the state performs much worse in the percentage of Pell recipients.”

In the areas of efficiency and cost effectiveness, “Florida receives a good grade in this area for four-year institutions, with a cost per completion of $46,071, which is the best of all states, and a state and local funding per completion ($41,647) slightly above the national median of $41,198. Florida’s two-year institutions fare even better with a cost per completion ($38,146) and state and local funding per completion ($21,115) in the top five of all states.”

Finally, “The median wage of a Florida bachelor’s degree holder is approximately $17,400 (or 61%) more than the median wage of a high school graduate; the overall unemployment rate for a bachelor’s degree holder is about 5 points lower. The median wage of an associate’s degree holder is approximately $8,900 (or 31%) more than the median wage of a high school graduate; the overall unemployment rate is about 3 points lower,” according to ICW.

The ICW report concludes, “Florida’s 2012–2025 strategic plan for higher education has clear goals with empirical targets including student outcomes and system efficiency. Florida has a small outcomes-based funding policy for two-year institutions but there is not a comparable system for four-year institutions. Finally, the state has an impressive articulation and credit transfer policy, including a statewide course numbering system.”

Sarasota Textbook Challenge Moves to the Florida Commissioner of Education

Just when you thought the challenges to the textbook World History: Patterns of Interaction had gone away, it rises again like a phoenix.

Aya Sewell, a local parent, and the Florida Security Council have both submitted requests to Dr. Eric J. Smith, Florida Commissioner of Education to conduct an investigation into the accuracy of World History. Florida Statute 1006.35 states in part:

(1) In addition to relying on statements of publishers or manufacturers of instructional materials, the commissioner may conduct or cause to be conducted an independent investigation to determine the accuracy of state-adopted instructional materials.

The Florida Security Council sent its request to the Commissioner after exhausting efforts at the Sarasota County School Board level to have it reviewed and corrected.

In the letter to Commissioner Smith the Florida Security Council states:

The Florida Security Council, at the behest of Ms. Sewell and other concerned parents and citizens submitted an appeal to the Sarasota County School Board’s decision to retain World History: Patterns of Interaction on the district approved list of instruction materials.

The appeal was denied by the Sarasota County School Board on July 20, 2010 in large part because the textbook was on the Florida Department of Education approved list and it “is a state problem” and not a local school board issue.

The Florida Security Council has done its part by going through the local process to have World History: Patterns of Interaction reviewed, corrected for inaccuracies and replaced during the 2011-2012 school year when this particular textbook is up for review. Again, that effort was thwarted primarily because the local school board looked at this as a state issue.

It is therefore in good faith and at the recommendation of the Sarasota County School Board that we come to you.

At a July 20, 2010 Sarasota County School Board appeal hearing each school board member recognized the textbook as flawed in one way or another but decided to retain the textbook. Chairwoman Shirley Brown admitted, “Some of the things we teach our students is biased.” Both Frank Kovach and Carolyn Zucker strongly recommended those concerned parents and citizens go the the state to resolve this textbook issue.

Well it looks like Aya and the Florida Security Council took that advice very seriously.