Florida Schools Ranking Drops Sharply Despite Strong Performance in Early Education, K-12 Achievement

floridaeduFlorida’s public education system has dropped in national rankings from sixth to 28th. The assessment, determined byEducation Week, gave the state an overall “C” grade.

It is likely that the drop, however, is largely due to a changing ranking system, rather than a serious shift in educational quality. The rankings used to be based on six factors, which have now been slimmed down to three: “chance for success,” school financing and K-12 achievement.

Florida fared well in the K-12 category, coming in seventh. But the state was ranked 34th and 37th for chance for success and school financing, respectively.

Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart focused on the positive aspects of the report in her response, praising teachers and their hard work. “[T]he state’s focus on student achievement is working and Florida has a good return on its investment in education,” she said.

A Focus on Early Education

Early childhood education is garnering extra scrutiny at the moment, with the president even addressing it in his State of the Union address Jan. 20. He hopes to make universal pre-kindergarten available to all four-year-olds. As part of that trend, early education was also the focus of a special section in the new assessment.

Enrollment of three- and four-year-olds is slightly higher in Florida than in the rest of the country, with about 50% involved in early education programs in the state as opposed to 47% nationally. Overall, Florida ranked 18th in the early education category of the Education Week report.

New Testing Guidelines

Though Florida’s averages on standardized tests have bolstered rankings in past years, excessive testing has become a major concern for many parents, the Miami Herald reported this month.

Lawmakers promised earlier in January that they will prioritize improvements on the state’s current assessment program. “We have a chance to do a rewrite so we can ensure that we are not over-testing our children,” Sen. David Simmons said.

Ideas currently being considered include reducing the number of mandated exams, allowing national tests such as Advanced Placement exams to replace state tests, eliminating repetitive tests and permitting individual districts more flexibility on their testing methods.

And while changes probably can’t be made before spring testing this year, Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Don Gaetz said legislators will act quickly. “We don’t have a year or two to study this,” he commented. “Any kind of cleanup that we need, or simplification we need in testing and assessment, should have been addressed by now.”

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