Florida students continue to score above average in reading and math tests used for national comparisons, according to results released Tuesday.
Depending on the grade, the average Florida student is doing as well as 60 to 74 percent of his or her peers nationwide, leading even a critic of high-stakes testing to say, "This one is a plus."
The scores show "we're not Mississippi, we're not Louisiana, we're not Alabama," said Bob Schaeffer, public education director for the National Center for Fair & Open Testing.
But, he added, it also shows Florida isn't Connecticut or Massachusetts, states often considered to be K-12 leaders.
The results are from the norm-referenced test given to students in grades 3-10. Called the SAT-10, the test is not aligned to state standards like the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is. And while it does not offer a direct comparison to students in other states (it actually compares Florida scores to the scores of students who took it in 2002), it is used by education officials to roughly gauge how Florida kids stack up nationally.
The results vary by grade and subject. Fourth-graders, for example, scored at the 71st percentile this year in math, down from the 77th percentile last year.
Between 2007 and 2008, Florida's percentile ranking in math fell in five grades, rose in two and stayed the same in one. In reading, Florida's rank went up in four grades and down in four.
But since 2001, the overall trend lines are up — often by a lot — in every grade and subject except 10th-grade math.
The results are but one measure of Florida's academic achievement. And even that measure needs to be looked at closely, Schaeffer said. For instance, Florida scores could be up because it's retaining more students than other states, due to the third-grade retention policy it instituted in 2003, he said.
After this year, though, there probably won't be a norm-referenced test to look at.
Because of budget cuts, the state will not use the test "for the foreseeable future," Department of Education spokesman Tom Butler said Tuesday. The test cost about $12-million this year to make, administer and score.
Florida will use other tests for national comparisons, he said.