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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida gets state-specific PISA results, finds a need for improvement



For the first time, states had the option to break out of the national PISA score report for individual results. Florida was one of three states to pay the $600,000 to participate.

The results show Florida high schoolers lagging behind their peers internationally and within the United States in math, reading and science as measured on this international test. A sampling of about 2,000 Florida students took the exams.

Among the outcomes:

• 30 percent of Florida students scored Level 2 or lower in math, while 6 percent scored Level 5 or above. That compares similarly to the results of Croatia (30 percent at the low end, 7 percent at the high end). Among all nations tested, 23 percent of students scored Level 2 or lower, and 13 percent at Level 5 or higher.

• 21 percent of Florida students scored Level 2 or lower in science, while 5 percent scored Level 5 or higher. That compares similarly to Sweden (22 percent and 6 percent), and lower than the overall outcomes (18 percent and 8 percent).

• 17 percent of Florida students scored at Level 2 or lower in reading, while 6 percent scored Level 5 or higher. That compares similarly to Czech Republic (also 17 percent and 6 percent), and on par with the international result (18 percent and 8 percent).

You can see all sorts of data, broken out in several ways, in this report. With the embargoed information released Monday, many groups have already reviewed the numbers and made their pronouncements.

Brussels-based Education International, a federation of teacher unions, pointed out that the PISA results carry limitations that come along with sampling students. It also noted that the test does not encompass all aspects of a quality education.

“Nevertheless, I welcome the OECD's emphasis on teacher qualifications and quality being the essence of excellent systems,” secretary general Fred van Leeuwen said in a release.

“I only hope that this will have some impact on the enemies of public education. EI agrees with OECD’s strong conclusion that the quality of a school cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. Countries that have improved significantly their performance over the last ten years have established policies to improve the quality of their teaching staff by improving professional standards, increasing salaries to make the profession more attractive for new entrants into profession and by offering incentives for teachers to engage in in-service training programmes.”

Focusing on Florida, Students First state director Nikki Lowery said in a release that the results made clear that despite Florida's education efforts, more improvement is needed. "As the rest of the world advances rapidly, we can't sit idle and make excuses for a system that fails to provide so many of our kids with great schools and great teachers," Lowery said. "This report should motivate all of us to do better for our children - to intensify our focus and remember what's at stake. We’re not getting to where we need to be fast enough and easing up on the gas pedal, or lowering the bar for our students won’t help them compete in the world they’re about to inherit.”

The National Center on Education and the Economy think tank said the United States needs to embark on a new type of reform initiative in order to compete.

"You can look from one end of the PISA reports to the other and find no correlation between student performance and use of market forces (charters and vouchers) in education systems," CEO Marc S. Tucker said in a release. "You will find no correlation between what a country or a city spends per student and the average student achievement in that country or city.  Nor will you find any correlation between student achievement and the use of systems designed to hold teachers accountable for the performance of their students based on their scores on standardized tests. Which is to say that PISA provides no evidence whatsoever that any component of the current 'education reform agenda' in the United States works, with the single exception of the Common Core, which has now come under withering attack."

There are sure to be more views offered. How much stock do you put into these results? What next steps should Florida take?

[Last modified: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 9:04am]


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