Florida Virtual's claim on 2011 AP passage rates based on fuzzy math
Yesterday, The Gradebook received an email press release from Florida Virtual School that stated that among its students taking the 2011 Advanced Placement tests "58 percent" passed with scores of 3,4 or 5. (See the full press release below).
During our reporting for our Jan. 8 story on Florida Virtual School, we shared the school's 2011 AP scores in their raw form, based on the figures the school sent us. Those numbers showed that the actual passage rate for all students was 54.3 percent. (You can see those for yourself here, by clicking on "Student Success," then clicking on "Advanced Placement," then scrolling all the way to the bottom to the last item, where you can open up a spreadsheet showing students' individual 2011 scores.)
The discrepancy in the scores seems to be this: Florida Virtual is averaging its subject averages, resulting in an overall passage rate that looks higher than it actually is. When we looked back at the school's promotional material over the years, we found the school has a habit of doing this. (You can see examples of that in the Power Point presentations the school sent us, also downloadable from the same spot you found the raw test scores I described above.)
To explain this fuzzy math, here's an example from the data: 71 students took AP Spanish Language test and 94.6 percent of them scored a 3 or higher; and 330 students (more than four times as many!) took the AP U.S. Government and Politics test and 49.3 percent of them scored a 3 or higher. But under the school's calculations, that 94.6 percent and 49.3 percent weigh the same in the overall average.
Sure, 58 percent sounds nicer than 54 percent, but not by that much. Still, the difference of four percentage points means the difference between whether Florida Virtual can say its students did better on average -- or about as well as -- than the national average or not. According to our calculations, which compared the state and national averages on the basis of the raw scores in the same subjects that Florida Virtual offered, Florida Virtual students actually scored better than the state averages in those subjects, but not better than the national average.
Here is exactly what the Jan. 12 press release said:
For Immediate Release
Star Kraschinsky, 407-513-3456, skraschinsky@FLVS.net
Tania Clow, 407-513-3627, firstname.lastname@example.org
Florida Virtual School® Students Outperform State, Equal Global Averages on Advanced Placement® Exam Results
Orlando, FL (Jan. 12, 2012) – Florida Virtual School (FLVS®) offers 15 Advanced Placement (AP®) courses to all students interested in AP. The recently released 2011 AP Exam results revealed that FLVS students outperformed the state in overall averages by 12 percent and were equal to the global overall averages.
The following chart reflects percent of students who qualified for college credit by passing the AP exam with a score of 3, 4 or 5.
2010-2011 FLVS results to note:
· 3,053 FLVS students took an AP Exam, an 18 percent increase over the previous year
· 88 percent of FLVS AP enrolled students took the AP Exam in their respective courses
· 58 percent qualified with a score of 3, 4 or 5
· FLVS students were above the state qualifying AP averages in 11 of 15 courses
· FLVS students were above the global qualifying AP averages in six of the courses
· AP Environmental Science, in its first year at FLVS, surpassed the state qualifying average by 20 percent and the global average by 9 percent.
· Minority students accounted for 46 percent of 2011 AP course enrollments.
FLVS is dedicated to providing open doors and abundant support, including exam fee payment to all FLVS AP students. In addition, FLVS provides AP Exam Reviews for free to all students, whether they attend FLVS or not.
About Florida Virtual School
Florida Virtual School (FLVS) is an established leader in developing and providing virtual Kindergarten- 12 education solutions to students all over Florida, the U.S. and the world. A nationally recognized e-Learning model and recipient of numerous awards, FLVS was founded in 1997 and was the country’s first, state-wide Internet-based public high school. Today, FLVS serves students in kindergarten-12th grades and provides a variety of custom solutions for schools and districts to meet student needs.