When promoting market-based education reforms like tax credits, we at the Rio Grande Foundation are often confronted by those who believe — even if they don’t clearly explain their position — that New Mexico students can never achieve educational success, in part, because the population is too poor or too Hispanic. It is true that minorities have historically not performed as well as other students, particularly in public schools, but there is no reason this must be the case.
A new study from the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, “Demography Defeated: Florida’s K-12 Reforms and Their Lessons for the Nation,” debunks the myth that Hispanics can’t perform in the right educational environment. This study which can be found here shows how Florida, a state that has embraced far-reaching school choice reforms, has enabled minority students to excel. As the study points out:
In 1999, when these reforms were enacted, nearly half of Florida fourth-graders scored “below basic” on the NAEP reading test, meaning that they could not read at a basic level. But by 2007, less than a decade after the education reforms took effect, 70 percent of Florida’s fourth-graders scored basic or above. Florida’s Hispanic students now have the second-highest statewide reading scores in the nation, and African-Americans score fourth-highest when compared with their peers.
In fact, the average Florida Hispanic student’s score is higher than the overall average score for all students in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
The fact that Florida Hispanics out perform New Mexico’s entire student population should indicate that vouchers and tax credits (both of which Florida has adopted) can improve results. Hopefully, New Mexico policymakers will take notice.