Where did Florida's academic gains come from?
There's been a lot of talk lately about Florida's educational successes of the past decade. Michael Martin, a researcher for the Arizona School Boards Association, writes in a guest post for the Answer Sheet his explanation for the state's improvements in NAEP scores.
He attributes the gains less to things such as class size reduction and mandatory third-grade retention, and more to the state's funneling of money to low-performing minority students:
"Something did happen in Florida in 1999 that specifically targeted low scoring students. In 1999 Florida created its “Assistance Plus” program targeting additional resources at schools rated as “D” or “F” in student test scores.
In an October 2002 status report on the Assistance Plus program, it noted that 64 schools were targeted for managerial assistance, including training teachers for “Effective Reading Practices” and funding reading coaches as well as coordinating activities with local college Assistance Plus Teams. The status report noted that “over $25 million statewide” in fiscal assistance was provided to these 64 schools, or about $390,000 per school.
The state created regional school improvement facilitators who were assigned failing schools to work with. These failing schools were paired with higher performing schools to provide peer models and assistance. In addition, colleges provided research-based assistance for implementing school improvement programs.
The schools also began working with other community organizations and administered community outreach programs, including climate surveys in languages of the parents. The Achievement Plus program perfectly fits the time and target of when and where Florida’s test scores improved."