Florida

Putting Education Reform To The Test

Report: Florida Test Gains Among Nation’s Best Since 2003

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A new report says many Florida education policies are shared by high-performing states.

Florida students had some of the nation’s largest gains between 2003 and 2011 on a key national standardized test, according to a new analysis by Education Sector, a nonpartisan policy research group.

The analysis tracked fourth and eighth grade math and reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, considered the model test for comparing student performance across state lines. The purpose was to check differences in student gains now that states have been released from some federal No Child Left Behind law requirements — as Florida has been.

Overall, the improvement in Florida student scores was the equivalent of more than half a year’s worth of learning averaged over the four subjects tested during the eight-year period. Twelve states and the District of Columbia showed more improvement than Florida.

But Florida’s improvement ranked eighth nationally for students who qualify for the federal free and reduced price lunch program, an often-used proxy for poverty. Those students’ scores improved by the equivalent of a full year’s worth of learning for each of the four subjects tested over the period studied.

Those results place Florida among what Education Sector authors John Chubb and Constance Clark call “high-performing states.” And the authors say those high-performing states share some common policies: They set high expectations, have developed their own systems to measure school performance and assist low-performing schools and are trying to measure and support effective teaching and leadership.

The authors caution against crediting any single policy for the gains, but write “student achievement is rapidly diverging at the state level and public policy is probably playing a key role.”

Most of the states have adopted academic standards intended to ensure high school graduates are ready for college-level work or to land a job with a salary which could support a family. Most often, those states have adopted the Common Core State Standards.

Interestingly, all of Education Sector’s top-performing states are members of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, one of two groups designing new tests to measure whether students are meeting Common Core standards. Chubb and Clark argue that might make it more likely those states can agree to set tougher passing scores for the PARCC exam.

Florida earns specific praise in the Education Sector report for comparing its students to those in the top-performing countries on international tests and for its A-through-F school and district grading system.

“Florida is the pace-setter here,” Chubb and Clark write. “The grades provide understandable measures of school performance for parents, policymakers and schools themselves — and have earned generally high marks from observers.”

Florida is also among states which are using complex statistical formulas to measure how much teachers are affecting their students’ test scores.

But researchers also reminded us that correlation does not equal causation.

“When you say these states that are on the improvement because of ‘X,’ that’s speculation,” said Andy Porter, dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania told Stateline.

Comments

  • NotAFan

    I’m guessing that no one that had anything to do with this study has children in Florida schools or even knows a Florida teacher? Teachers are “required” to teach to the test and we as a state are setting ourselves up for failure. The fat cats in Tally won’t listen to parents or educators, and they promote their own agenda. They are trying to make Florida look like something that it isn’t. All the while, children are missing out on learning the basics, like their multiplication facts and how to find the main idea in a paragraph. There is spelling, but no vocabulary. I can’t remember the last time one of my children had to crack open a dictionary for school work. Kids’ penmanship is horrible, to say the least. That might be okay if they taught typing in elementary school, which they do not. Teachers here are highly pressured, fearful of losing their jobs if their children do not test well on the standardized test. That puts stress on the children and the parents. And now, teachers are required to teach the children in groups, grouping four or five children together, so they can “learn how to work together” which creates a lot of chatter and children always up out of their seats. Not to mention half of the children’s backs are to the teachers (as the desks are grouped facing each other). Tests only tell part of the story. You can’t judge a child, a teacher, a school, a district, or a state by one test. I could go on and on…

  • NotAFan II

    I am thinking there is an important word missing in the next to last statement in the article. “But researchers also reminded us that correlation does equal causation.” Shouldn’t that read: But researchers also reminded us that correlation does NOT equal causation?
    Zip codes are proving to be a great a predictor of school grades. Correlation or causation?

    • StateImpactJOC

      Yep, thanks for catching that.

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