Former Gov. Jeb Bush and his Foundation for Excellence in Education have launched an advertising campaign to sell Floridians on the wonders of standardized testing and school accountability as his reforms turn 15 years old this spring. But the Bush foundation's campaign called "Learn More. Go Further" tells only one side of a more complicated story. There have been some successes, but the campaign cherry-picks statistics to make Florida's schools look better than they are. Floridians deserve a more accurate picture of the state of public education. Here are some of that foundation's happy assertions, with a more sobering assessment that in each case comes from the same report cited by the foundation.
1. Florida's graduation rates reached an all-time high of 75 percent in 2012-2013.
BUT the graduation rate was 58.9 percent for African-American males and 80.5 percent for all white students.
2. For the second straight year, Florida finished among the top five states in the percent of high school graduates who passed an AP exam.
BUT of all AP exams taken by the class of 2013 during their high school careers, 55.5 percent failed to earn a passing mark.
3. In eighth-grade math, the academic improvement of Florida students is three times higher than that of students nationwide.
BUT Florida's average score rose just 3 points, from 278 in 2011 to 281 in 2013, while national averages rose only 1 point, from 283 to 284. Florida still lags behind the national average, and 30 percent of Florida's eighth-graders fall below basic proficiency in math.
4. No other school system in the world scored higher than Florida's fourth-grade students on the PIRLS international literacy test that compares the reading achievement of fourth-graders in 52 education systems around the world.
BUT there is a huge achievement gap between Florida's white and black fourth-graders on the same reading assessment. African-American students scored 537, far below the overall national average of 556. Florida's white fourth-graders scored 591. The gap between Florida's white and black students on this measure was 54 points.
5. Florida's low-income fourth-graders ranked first in the nation among their peers, and they performed as well or better than the average student in 15 states on the 2013 Nation's Report Card reading test.
BUT the achievement gap for Florida's low-income fourth-graders in reading has not closed much in 15 years.
6. Florida is 10th in the nation for reading achievement of African-American eighth- graders in 2013.
BUT a third of Florida's African-American eighth-graders scored below basic on this reading test. Only 16 percent of white students performed that poorly.
7. Florida is seventh in the nation on K-12 student achievement , according to the 2014 Education Week report, "Quality Counts."
BUT that ranking earned only a letter grade of C from "Quality Counts."
8. Florida's eighth-grade Hispanic students read as well or better than their peers in 35 states in 2013.
BUT the average score for Florida's Hispanic students was 13 points lower than for white students, and the achievement gap hasn't significantly closed in 15 years.