Has Florida's academic performance improved?
With the drumbeat growing louder to scale back Florida's testing and accountability program, some critics have begun challenging whether the state's education initiatives have had any positive effects.
The Southern Regional Education Board, created more than 50 years ago to promote educational growth in the region, has issued a new paper stating that Florida has made much progress in the past decade. Among the highlights:
- Florida served more than twice as many children in public pre-K as it had children living in poverty in 2010, helping more of its neediest children get ready for school.
- In 2011, Florida’s fourth-graders outperformed the nation and region in reading and math at the Basic level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress — with 71 percent scoring at or above Basic in reading, compared with 66 percent in the nation; and 84 percent at or above NAEP Basic in math, compared with 82 percent in the nation. Black and Hispanic fourth- and eighth-graders narrowed achievement gaps with white students in reading and math on NAEP Basic from 2003 to 2011.
- At 61 percent, the on-time college graduation rate at Florida’s public four-year institutions in 2010 topped the nation and the region.
- At 86 percent, Florida’s “first-year persistence rate,” the percentage of college freshmen who return for a second year, exceeded the region by 1 point in 2010.
“These gains are an important step forward and confirm that many of the policies Florida has adopted are making a difference,” SREB president Dave Spence said in a release. “Education has been a top priority for SREB states. The challenge ahead is to focus on what we know works to improve public education.”
Of course, not all is perfect. The SREB also details Florida's declining SAT scores, low eighth-grade math standards, and slightly widening graduation rate gap between whites and Hispanics, among other areas needing added attention.
Read the paper here. Does the SREB make a convincing case that Florida's system has done at least some good?