Florida was ranked 7th on student achievement on the Education Week ranking of states, Commissioner Stewart tweeted today. If you look more closely, should Florida be pleased? After all, press reports said Florida was 28th! What should we believe?
Does the emperor wear clothes?
Yes, Florida was ranked 7th on an achievement category. How could we be doing so well and receive a ranking of 28th on education overall? It is all confusing. The 28th ranking combines not only achievement but also family and job characteristics. As it turns out, achievement includes more than test scores.
Achievement combines test scores, improvement in scores, and closing the achievement gap between children from low and high income families. Florida’s test scores were 22nd in the nation and received a D +. Florida did well on the improvement in scores on the 4th grade reading and math National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). Its grade was a C+, and its improvement was 4th in the nation. Florida’s highest ranking was for equity; it received an A-. Equity is the category for reducing the achievement gap between low income minority students and higher income students. Combine the three categories and Florida was seventh overall. So, Florida is both 22nd and 7th!
How did Florida make improvements in scores for low income students? Hopefully, some students did learn more than expected. There may be more to the story. We already looked at the possibility that retaining third graders who failed FCAT helped make fourth grade scores look better. This is where Florida did well. Remember that 8th graders did not do so well.
It would be interesting to also see what impact school choice has on these scores. Florida is number two in the number of students leaving traditional public schools for charters and private schools. A large number of these students are low achievers from low income families. Does this fact change the comparability of Florida’s NAEP results with other states? This would make a nice study.
Education Week said the state of education nationally was ‘mediocre’. Florida’s test scores received a D+ and its combined achievement indicators a ‘C’ grade. Whatever the emperor is wearing, it is not ermine.