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The Data Behind Education Reform

• Alexis Flowers

I recently graduated from [THE] Florida State University, where I studied both Economics and Risk Management/Insurance. I decided to go a different direction when choosing a first job out of school and am now the Policy and Research Coordinator at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which, admittedly, is quite the departure from my degree. While I’ve always been a bit of an aspiring policy wonk, I often get asked by my friends “why education?”

This question came up again last week when four of us were at dinner. I thought I’d throw some numbers at them and see if that helped answer their question (I am a data nerd, after all).

They totally got it once I told them that a third of our nation’s fourth graders can’t read at a basic level. That five years into elementary school, there are kids who still read at a first- or second-grade level.

And they were even more shocked to learn almost one out of every two black or Hispanic fourth graders can’t read at a basic level. But since we are only a few years out of high school, this one hit close to home: almost a third of kids with a high school diploma can’t pass the academic test to get in the military. This isn’t even counting high school dropouts.

But this one made their jaws drop: three out of every four high school graduates have to take at least one remedial course in college. One of my friends said, “so which one of us didn’t have to do that?”

They finally got it.

Each day, education advocates work to ensure students receive quality educations that will prepare them for success in college and beyond. Through high standards, accountability, effective teaching, and leadership, we can ensure each student graduates with the skills and knowledge needed to reach his or her greatest potential.

This is an economic issue. This is a social justice issue. This is an intergenerational issue. And now it’s an issue that my friends understand.

It’s for all of these reasons and more that I am honored to be in the line of work that I’m in.

About the author

Alexis Flowers

Alexis is a Policy Analyst for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. She joined the Foundation staff full time after working as a legislative intern during the 2011 Florida session. A recent graduate of Florida State University, she studied Risk Management/Insurance and Economics and graduated cum laude in the fall of 2010. She’s a second generation Floridian, and will begin pursuing her Masters in Applied Economics at Georgia Southern University this fall.