What it really means is that Florida is the only state which reports five levels on its state assessment that correspond to the five levels of NAEP. This is a good thing.
It is not enough.
Florida’s renamed Common Core standards are fairly rigorous even though (or perhaps because) some educators say they are flawed. If students achieve a level three on the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA), they should also receive a three on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
The American Institute for Research (AIR) released a report this week that compared the achievement of students in states that opted out of the Common Core assessments to NAEP achievement. These states developed their own standards and tests, and it was not clear how easy or difficult they were. The issue now being raised in Florida, however, is not as much about standards, but about passing scores.
NAEP does not indicate a passing score, rather it labels its five levels from below basic through advanced. Florida set its passing score at level three. Is this high enough? The Chamber of Commerce thinks students should be required to achieve the equivalent of a level four.
What would a level four on the FSA mean for Florida students? Consider that 53% of Florida students passed the third grade English Language Assessment. Only 25% earned a level four. Should we fail three fourths of our third graders?
Will failing more students improve achievement in our schools? Florida retains third graders who fail the state assessment test. It helps raise scores on the fourth grade NAEP simply because so many fourth graders had two years of third grade. The gains are lost by eighth grade. Failing more children won’t work.
How good are our students compared to the rest of the country? NAEP 2015 Results show that Florida’s students perform about at the national average in fourth grade reading and math and below average in eighth grade math. The score gap between white and black students is about the same as the national average.
Much has been made of Florida’s increases in achievement over time. Unfortunately, these increases were short lived. Third grade student retention raised fourth grade NAEP scores initially, but there has been little if any improvement for at least seven years. Math scores have been essentially flat for years.
Are Floridians satisfied with average and stagnant achievement? The legislature values cutting costs and raising standards. Helping students achieve those standards gets short shrift. Punitive measures for struggling students and their teachers just are not working.
It will take money to reduce the number of at risk students and increase the number of advanced students. It will take a strong political will for the state and its parents to not only demand improvement but also to make it possible. Or, we can coast along. Not everyone can be above average.
ELA non consortium states =18
Level 2 NAEP 2 Level 3 NAEP 3 Level 4 NAEP 4 Advanced
79 %(8 tie) 202 BB 54% (7) 224 B 27% 246 P 8% 271