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New Blog Series: The Secrets of Great Schools

• Mike Thomas

Secrets of Great Schools


What are the secrets of great schools?

We went to find out in a state with plenty of them—Florida.

Once known for having a dismal K-12 public education system, Florida reversed course with a slate of ambitious reforms passed in 1999 known as the A+ Plan. And ever since it has been a national leader in making academic gains, succeeding with students across the demographic spectrum.

Part of this success is due to the variety of options now available to families—neighborhood schools, charter schools, magnet schools, dual enrollment and so on. This has given parents and students more freedom to find a school that best fits their needs.

Students who are where they belong are much more likely to realize their potential.

Starting Thursday, we will be profiling some of these schools. First up is the Osceola Professional and Technical High School (PATHS).

How did we choose the schools to highlight? Our policy experts meticulously rummaged through the data and picked out schools with excellent test scores, outstanding graduation rates for high schools and a good mix of students.

I added another more stringent criteria when I visited them: would I send my kids there? The answer was always yes.

I won’t be spoiling anything to tell you the obvious. Strong education policies create the framework for strong schools. But it is great principals and teachers who make it happen. They are the common denominator in each profiled school.

We hope you will both be inspired by them and learn from them.

Read posts in the Secrets of Great Schools series:


About the author

Mike Thomas @MikeThomasTweet

Mike Thomas serves in the communications department, writing editorials and speeches. Prior to joining the Foundation, Mike worked for more than 30 years as a journalist with Florida Today and the Orlando Sentinel. He has written investigative projects, magazine feature stories, humor pieces, editorials and local columns. He won several state and national awards, and was named a finalist in the American Society of New Editors’ Distinguished Writing Award for Commentary/Column Writing in 2010. As a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, he wrote extensively about education reform, becoming one of its chief advocates in the Florida media. Mike graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in political science and journalism. His wife is a teacher and he has two children in public schools. Contact Mike at