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Success = Rising Student Achievement

• Jaryn Emhof

In the last 2 weeks there has been much discussion about the results of reform. Individuals are quick to handicap news, headlines, and recent happenings from a political perspective. Such is not surprising given the polarized nature of political discussions these days. In all this, students are forgotten. Improving student academic performance is the focus of ExcelinEd. Anyone who speaks with Governor Bush or has objectively observed his passion for reform, over the 20 years he has devoted to this cause, knows it’s his motivating factor.

The fact is, when you strip away all the politics, the data regarding student academic improvement is clear. Governor Bush would be the first to say Florida still has work to do and that there is no silver bullet, but the data clearly shows that following the reforms education in Florida has significantly improved. The data from states who are far enough down the reform road to have initial results match what Florida saw when it began its reform journey.

This is how ExcelinEd measures success.  This is how we should all measure success.


Louisiana – for reforms they’ve adopted visit


  • 1% increase in students doing math on grade level over last year – with a harder test.  67 out of 70 districts made progress.
  • 25% increase in college credits earned through AP courses, the largest increase in state history
  • 20% increase in college eligible students, after requiring all seniors to take the ACT


  • Student achievement improved with 68% of students on grade level at all grades and all subjects in 2012, which is 10,000 more students on grade in 2012 than in 2011


New Mexico – for reforms they’ve adopted visit

2013:   10% growth in reading proficiency from 2012 for 11th graders, with

  • Hispanic 11th graders showing a 10.6% increase,
  • African-American -A 11th graders showing a 9% increase, and
  • Native American 11th graders showing an 11% increase.
  • 3rd graders posted a 3% improvement in reading on grade level, after three years of decline.


  • 1% increase in students reading on grade level from 49% to 50%
  • 1% increase in students doing math on grade level from 42% to 43%


Indiana – for reforms they’ve adopted visit:


  • Indiana graduation rates have increased over the last few years, while the number of students dropping out of school decreased by 48 percent.
  • This year parents of 10,000 Hoosier students had the opportunity to pick the school that best fits their child.
  • This year, 86% of third grade students passed the IREAD-3 test, and according to the Indy Star, “More than 30 public schools had 100 percent pass rates, up from 21 schools the year before.”


  • 81% of students passed the state mathematics test, up from 72% in 2009
  • 79% of students passed the state English language’s test, up from 71% in 2009


Florida – for reforms they’ve adopted visit: and

On national education rankings Florida has gone from being at the bottom of the nation to above or at the national average.

Parents have a wide array of choice options to pick the school that best fits their child.


  • Graduation rates improved 22%, with minority students making greatest gains.  Drop-out rates are at an all-time low.
  • Almost 10,000 more Florida students passed Advance Placement tests in 2012 than in 2011
  • Florida’s Hispanic fourth graders read as well or better than the statewide average of all students in 21 states and District of Columbia.


About the author

Jaryn Emhof @jarynemhof

Jaryn served as the Vice President of Communications for the Foundation for Excellence in Education until July 2016. Previously, Jaryn served in the Florida Senate for 10 years, working as a legislative assistant to then-State Senator Daniel Webster and, most recently, Communications Director for Senate President Jeff Atwater. Jaryn holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and is pursuing a master’s degree in Public Administration from the Reubin O’D. Askew School of Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University.