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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Another national ranking, another B- for Florida



Florida continues to receive high marks in comparison to other states, this time in the newly released Education Week Quality Counts report. The organization gave the Sunshine State a B- grade, putting it at No. 6 nationally. Over the past five years, Florida has consistently remained in the upper echelon of the Quality Counts rankings. 

Not too long ago, Florida schools were considered among the worst in the country.

Breaking down that grade into categories, Education Week gives Florida its highest marks in areas of accountability and standards for students, transitions and alignment of those standards from level to level, and accountability for teachers.

Where it falls further down the line is in the key areas of performance. Florida gets a D- in the status of its academic achievement, although a B in the area of equity helps level the total achievement grade to C-. Part of the reason might lie in the category of school finance, where Florida gets a D+ — that's an A- for equity and an F for spending, placing it 39th among the 50 states.

Education Week does not highlight Florida as a standout in any category, instead mentioning Massachusetts as tops in chance for success for a sixth consecutive year, Georgia as the best when it comes to transitions and alignment, and West Virginia and Wyoming as the two highest performers in school finance. This year's top rated state overall is Maryland, with Massachusetts close behind. 

This marks Florida's second B- in a week, the other being from Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst organization. That group ranked states based on adherence to its policy agenda, including adoption of the parent trigger and teacher evaluations based on test results.

A few questions to ponder as we wait for the Florida DOE to give its take on Quality Counts. Is it good enough to be rated well on policies when performance continues to fall short, knowing that achievement has seen strong improvements as evidenced by rising AP, NAEP and other national and international measures, even with tougher standards? If money matters so much, and Florida fails on spending, what should the state stop spending on to improve its education funding and, likely, its results? And finally, as an overarching issue, how much credibility do you place in any of these annual report cards?

UPDATE: Interim commissioner Pam Stewart took issue with the report's finance ratings, suggesting that it looks at the wrong things. "What matters is not how much we spend, but how we spend the dollars we allocate," Stewart told reporters in a conference call. She recommended that Quality Counts add an efficiency measure, comparing dollars spent to academic outcomes.

Overall, Stewart said the state is pleased with the ranking, in which Florida rose from No. 11 to No. 6. The department sent out several comments from state leaders applauding the news.

[Last modified: Thursday, January 10, 2013 9:33am]


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